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February 24, 2009

Students get first-hand report from war's fronts

Jeff Carovillano's 10th-grade U.S. History class at Manchester Essex Regional High School has been following current events and learning about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yesterday, they were given a firsthand account.

"It was fun, and hard, and sad and exciting. But, it was worth it — for me it was," said Army Spc. Anthony Papandrea of his two tours of duty: 12 months in Afghanistan and 15 months in Iraq.

Papandrea, 21, of Beverly, is the half-brother of Essex sophomore Stephanie Lane. When Carovillano asked his students if any of them had relatives who had served in the wars and might be willing to come to speak to the class, Lane asked Papandrea, who was released from active duty on Feb. 8.

"I just like to inform people of how things are over there," Papandrea said of his decision to speak.

Papandrea told the class that he did "basically, anything and everything" in Iraq; raiding houses, clearing roadside IEDs (improvised explosive devices), rapelling from helicopters and jumping out of planes in combat zones were just a few of the tasks he mentioned.

Papandrea said his most memorable experience while serving was the first time he was attacked. He said it was on July 20, 2006. He was in a tower on his base with two other soldiers talking when word came in over the radio that they should expect something, but he didn't know what.

"You know fireworks? You know that big line that goes up before the firework explodes?" Papandrea asked the class of about 20 students. "You see that. But, nothing explodes, and then you're just waiting, and you'll hear boom, and you'll see an explosion somewhere next to you."

It was a mortar attack.

"We got attacked that night. My buddy jumped on top of me — saved my life actually. If I didn't get down, I wouldn't be here today," he said.

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