Knoer, from Ruthven, Iowa, won the Clay County Fallen contest hosted by the Vermillion VFW 3061 and School of Education which tasked students with researching and writing a biography about the life of a fallen veteran from Clay County, South Dakota. Students researched fallen heroes from the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War eras.

Knoer’s project centered on Vietnam veteran, James L. Fuchs, a third generation military member. Starting at the Clay County Historical Society, Knoer’s research eventually led him to James’ brother, Bill, in Pierre, South Dakota, where he was able to discuss James’ life and family.

“Both of his grandparents served in the military. And his father and four uncles served in World War II,” said Knoer, who is a sergeant in the Iowa National Guard.

Jing Williams, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, developed the Clay County Fallen program to utilize the resources of the local community in hopes of inspiring her students to employ these same techniques when they are leading a classroom.

“As a social studies educator, the local community is always a big part of my work,” said Williams. “Contributing to the community-at-large through service-learning is an effective way to cultivate young people’s civic competence.”

Knoer, who is also pursuing his teaching certification in social science education, said he believed the experience brought to life one of Clay County’s fallen veterans.

“On day one, he was a name on a piece of paper,” said Knoer. “But he became a real person by the end of the project. I could picture him.”

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