Fulton NY – Sixth graders across the Fulton City School District recently completed a mini unit on Medal of Honor recipients and they were surprised to learn that a native Fultonian earned that medal on June 6 1944.
Carlton W. Barrett was born and raised in Fulton and joined the Army in 1940.
On D-Day, he found himself on the beaches of Normandy, France, under withering fire in conditions reminiscent of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.
Barrett, at only 5’2” and 125 pounds, swam struggling comrades into shore, and swam wounded soldiers out to evacuation boats. Additionally, he calmed panicked men and ran messages up and down the beach with no regard for his personal safety.
He did all of this while disregarding three shrapnel and bullet wounds.
Eventually, he was evacuated off the beach after a blast shattered the bones in one of his feet.
Read full citation; http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2626/barrett-carlton-w.php
A few years ago Volney Elementary School sixth grade teacher Bill Cahill was at a meeting when a colleague from Faigrieve, Rick Bush, showed him Carlton W. Barrett’s MOH citation.
Discussions about what a wonderful example of character education Barrett’s actions were ensued.
Surprisingly, none of the native Fultonians in the room had heard of Barrett.
As the next few years passed, Cahill continually asked people around the district and community if they had ever heard of Private Barrett and the answer was consistently no.
Then last year, Cahill came across an article entitled America’s Sad Story; Fulton NY.
Cahill recently recounted how the article had sparked an idea.
“The article really bothered me. My grandmother was a Fultonian and I am well aware of the city’s proud history. Unfortunately, the city had fallen on some tough times over the years, but the future is bright. I see it every day in our classrooms. After I read the negative article about Fulton, I immediately thought of Mr. Barrett and how he had become forgotten over the years,” Cahill said.
As a result, the district’s sixth grade teachers obtained a DVD series from the Medal of Honor Society with lesson plans for educators that included web quests, writing activities and video testimonies from living MOH recipients.
Students got to hear firsthand about recipients’ bravery, fortitude, perseverance, humility, selflessness and love for fellow comrades in battle.
Fairgrieve sixth grade teacher John Mercer said, “The common thread among the recipients was that none of them considered themselves heroes. They all felt that those who didn’t make it home were the real heroes. What a wonderful example of humility and self-sacrifice to share with our students.”
Once students started to watch first-hand recollections about the feats of valor the recipients displayed on the battle field and found out that a fellow Fultonian had earned the medal, they were very enthusiastic to learn more about Carlton W. Barrett.
Students read an article based on research by Volney parent Carolyn Zimmerman about Barrett’s life in the military.
Based on that article, students wrote essays based on the prompt: “As a fellow Fultonian, I am proud of Carlton W. Barrett’s actions on June 6, 1944, because…”
Outstanding essays were then selected by teachers from each school.
Essay winners will ride in Fulton’s Memorial Day Parade on May 27 and read their essays at a morning program at Memorial Park on May 29.
When asked about the positive impact the project had on students, Cahill was quick to respond, “First and foremost it’s important for our students to realize their city has a proud history and that as active citizens they will be the agent of change that brings back that pride. Secondly, sixth grade students are at an age to be able to understand that freedom is not free and a very small percentage of our population signs up to do our fighting when necessary. Third, because Pvt. Barrett was not the size of a professional wrestler or football player, students came to the conclusion that one’s body size or shape does not dictate their worth or abilities. Lastly, students learned about character traits displayed by MOH recipients, like humility, selflessness, passion, fortitude, perseverance, patriotism, valor, and gallantry. These are all traits that if emulated, will serve our children well in their own lives.”