Students at an Escondido school learned a real-life history lesson from a World War II veteran.
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Jose Wirebaugh, 89, spoke to two dozen 9th-grade students at Escondido Community Day School Thursday about his experiences in honor of Memorial Day.
Wirebaugh spoke to the students about being drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1942 and the 58 bombing missions he flew in World War II as a flight engineer.
"I would have given my life for him, he gave his life for me," Wirebaugh told students, referring to a fellow Airman.
At times, there was laughter in the classroom, but even Wirebaugh fought back tears talking about five Airmen he left behind.
"From that night, until last night, I prayed for those five guys," he added, his voice cracking as he spoke.
Nicknamed "Handsome Jose," Wirebaugh has been speaking to students for 39 years. Thursday, however, was different, as he spoke to students in his grandson's classroom 9th grade history teacher Jason Filizetti.
"I can only do so much as a facilitator, as a teacher," said Filizetti. "But when somebody that's flesh and blood, that's been through the experience that knows what happened and has these stories, I think that is far more powerful than any teacher or educator can do."
Filizetti invited his grandfather from Phoenix to give the students a personal history lesson that, he told 10News, was not always easy to tell.
"For the first 10 years after World War II, I couldn't talk about it," added Wirebaugh.
"It's surprising how much people died and stuff," said student Mirna Herrera. "For him to only be one survivor is something big, you know."
"Probably one of the best things I have ever done here," said student Tony Alonzo.
It was an experience Wirebaugh appreciates and will cherish as well.
"It's an honor and a privilege," he added.
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