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Klahowya teen to perform tribute for former POWs
Anthony Zendejas, a junior at Klahowya Secondary School, has been invited to attend the 64th and final national convention for the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC) May 25-31 in San Antonio and perform a memorial tribute to surviving POWs.
Zendejas became interested in the events that took place in Bataan because of a history project assigned to him in school.
“When I was in eighth grade I had to do a history day project that focused on an event from the past which also related to the present,” Zendejas said. “I had three different ideas, but my teacher told me to focus on Bataan because it was the one he knew the least about.”
Zendejas said he started out by reading the Hampton Sides book “Ghost Soldiers,” which tells the story of the rescue mission to save 512 POWs held captive in Bataan. During his research, he learned one of the Army Rangers who took part in the rescue was Capt. Prince of Port Townsend. With encouragement from his teacher, Zendejas contacted Prince and asked for an interview.
“I was really scared because he is like some famous guy and he is a military person,” Zendejas said. “But when he answered the phone I thought, ‘This guy sounds like my grandpa.’”
After speaking on the phone, Zendejas went to Port Townsend to interview Prince who persuaded him to not focus on the Rangers and the rescue, but to talk to the actual prisoners who were there in Bataan and Corregidor.
“I sent out an e-mail looking for survivors to interview and was flooded with responses,” Zendejas said. “I was even contacted by the author, Hampton Sides.”
The original idea for the project was to write an essay, but Zendejas’ teacher suggested he tell the story using his strengths.
“My strength is acting,” Zendejas said. “I figured the best way I could tell the story was through my face and voice.”
Eventually, the essay evolved into a 10-minute, one-man play which Zendejas has performed in numerous places around the country including at a convention in Washington, D.C. in 2007.
Margot Zendejas, Anthony’s mother, said the play touches everyone who sees it.
“He portrays about six different characters in the play and takes people on the journey of a prisoner of war,” Margot said.
In addition to performing the play for the POWs attending the convention, Zendejas intends to deliver letters from citizens in the community to the POWs to let them know they have not been forgotten and are still appreciated.
“I have collected about 100 letters so far,” Zendejas said. “I would love to take 500 or more with me.”
Zendejas is asking local residents to write letters to these former POWs so he may take them with him in May. If you are interested in writing a letter, send it to Anthony Zendejas, C/O Klahowya Secondary School, P.O. Box 8, Silverdale, WA 98383.