Part veteran’s appreciation pageant, part living history exercise, the Annual King High Remembers event enlists the school’s entire junior class to interview hundreds of veterans on one morning.
Martin Luther King High Remembers is a living history project at the High School in Riverside, which brings together many military veterans and also high school history students. The program Remembers event enlists the school’s entire junior class to interview hundreds of veterans on one morning to help preserve history.
U.S. History teacher John Corona was the creator of King High Remembers at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, CA.
In time of war, our U.S. veterans endured hardships to protect our country and defend us against all enemies. However, we often forget those civilians who came face-to-face with fear itself. Meity Ungerer, an Indo-Dutch citizen, was a prisoner of war during World War II, and showed great endurance and courage in times of fear and adversity.
MeityUngerer grew up in Indonesia on the island of Sumatra and more precise in the coal mining town Sawahlunto. During world war two the Japanese eventually occupied Indonesia due to the abundance of coal and oil. According to Ungerer, they were held captive because they were Dutch and not Indonesians. Those held captive were Americans, Dutch, English, and anyone else who was not Indonesian. Meity and her family had lost everything except one suitcase. At the camp, men were separated from women, leaving Meity and her mother to rely only on one another. They were crammed in overcrowded rooms and required to work for hours on end doing exhausting labor. She worked hard everyday but still received but a mere one cup of rice. Hunger became a nightmare. Any food Meity received she would pass onto her mother and grandmother. Because food was scarce, Meity had no choice but to start smuggling food items for both her companions and herself.
Hunger was difficult, but being beaten was even worse. Ungerer was beaten and scorned by a Japanese soldier while still a teenager. However, she did not cry, for she was too angry to shed tears. Because of this beating, Ungerer currently has a crack in her skull and must have a pacemaker. Her doctor asked her, “Were you abused as a child?” Ungerer recalled that she was not abused by her parents, but by the Japanese. She also has a weak heart and suffers from the effects of malnutrition due to poor nutrition as a child. Her experiences many years ago still continue to affect her today.
After many years of hardship, World War II finally came to an end in August of 1945. They currently reside in Southern California where Mrs. Ungerer continues to share her story as part of the healing process.
Being a civilian prisoner of war, Mrs. Ungerer faced hardships that many of us cannot begin to imagine.
Being a student at King High school, her granddaughter asked Meity to join the group of veterans and Gerdie is doing this with a smile for the last 13 years.
Last year High School Senior student Earlienne Rillo interviewed Meity and wrote her on March 20, 2014 the following letter.
Dear Gerdie (Meity),
Although you may not remember me, I remember you. When you told me about your life at last year’s King High Remembers, I felt a mixture of things.
When you told me of the difficulties of living in the camps, I was saddened and disgusted at the reality that people would put others in those kinds of situations. When you told me of the kindness you received during those harsh times, you showed me that there is hope in even the darkest of circumstances.
What I’m really trying to say to you is: Thank you. Thank you for coming to King High Remembers and teaching high school students like me the importance of knowing our history and appreciating the struggles that generations before have overcome.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for the cassava chips. When I walked into the gym the day of KHR, I didn’t know what to expect. When you asked if I was disappointed for not getting a military veteran, I was shocked. I was surprised because there was no part in interviewing you that was disappointing at all. Interviewing you was an interesting and inspirational experience and it was truly a privilege to do so.
I hope this year’s KHR will be a memorable experience for you and your interviewers.
(High School Senior that
Interviewed you last year)
Meity Ungerer, who is my niece, gave me permission to publish all the above written text and picture. And I am very proud of her.