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Valley high school students share veterans' stories on 'Patriot Plates' show

Posted at 5:06 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 16:40:19-04

A pair of Valley high school students are on a mission to share veterans' stories by launching a series on YouTube called "Patriot Plates."

They find cars with veteran license plates, pull them over, and ask if they'd talk about their time in service.

For 17-year-old Bridget Van Wie, preserving military stories is personal.

"A Van Wie member has served in every war since the Revolutionary War, so I’m very patriotic, I love our history, I love our country. I actually want to go into the military someday, I want to attend either the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy, so this is really important to me," she said.

For the past few months, she and her co-producer Bella Navarro, 17, have been working on setting up interviews for the series. The channel will feature veterans who served in different wars and eras.

“These are random people that you drive by every day, and they have these fantastic stories of sacrifice and service, so I think it’s really important that we record it and remember them," said Van Wie.

“It helps me learn that the stories aren’t just book and ink that I learned during school, these are real people that I see on the daily, on the regular it’s, it’s amazing," said Bella Navarro. “Being in this project, it’s such a great learning experience. For both behind the scenes in learning more about history.”

So far, they've done five interviews and have a long list of others they plan to get on video.

The teens said it's been a rewarding experience, and they can't wait to share it with the world.

“It’s just great to know that we are preserving that history for future generations," said Van Wie.

The first episode comes out Saturday, August 7 and features retired Staff Sergeant Jason Wenk.

Wenk had been awarded the Purple Heart for his service in Iraq but never actually received the medal after his unit was disbanded.

"Receiving that award --I hear -- is very important to veterans just for finding closure," said Van Wie.

Bridget and Bella made some calls and were able to find him a Purple Heart to present to him in a surprise ceremony Saturday.

Officials from the Army and the Arizona Veterans Museum will be there to honor Wenk with the medal.

The process to get a new Purple Heart takes a couple of years, so Wenk will have to fill out paperwork to receive his official medal later.

You can watch Wenk's ceremony on the Patriot Plates YouTube page. The first episode will air immediately after.