Meeting With The Veterans

Posted: March 22, 2014 in Living and Life
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I had a very exciting day today. A couple members of my study abroad group and I, along with one of the professors leading the trip, went to an assisted-living home to meet some veterans of WWII and Korea. It was quite the edifying experience, and we all enjoyed it immensely.

We arrived there around a quarter to one in the afternoon and were shown up to the multipurpose room on the second floor. There, we met several veterans and one survivor of the Holocaust, a man by the name of Mr. Cohen, whom we all got a chance to speak to first. Mr. Cohen was a German Jew who lost his family at Auschwitz and was lucky enough to survive the camps. It was very humbling to listen to him speak about his experiences, about being evacuated from the camps when the Russians got close, about meeting his wife and moving into America, and most of all about getting the tattoo on his arm and ceasing to be anything more than a number. Mr. Cohen’s granddaughter was there as well, and she urged her grandfather t tell more stories, but he didn’t want to. I can’t blame him, considering the horrors he survived. It must be really difficult to relive them.

Afterwards we split up and went around the room speaking to different people about their experiences. There were two Navy men named Earl and Herb who had served on different ships and tried to give us an idea of what it was like living on a crowded ship like that. Not only did they do that, but they gave me an idea for a novel (sometimes I worry I get too many of those. Lord knows I won’t be able to write all of them at the rate I have ideas). We also spoke to a man who fought in both wars and a woman who packed the parachutes used by paratroopers in the European theater. Apparently she wrote her name on every parachute so that if something went wrong, they could find out who packed the parachute (luckily that eventuality never came up).

And that was just the experiences of me and a friend; the others spoke to vets we never got a chance to speak to. And every time we sat down to speak to someone, time just flew by. Before we knew it there were the final photo ops and the last chances to grab snacks and examine the WWII memorabilia brought in by a man whose father fought in the war (everyone got a little nervous when I started examining a Hitler Youth dagger and a German Luftwaffe short sword. Well, I’m sorry I write horror stories, but there’s no reason to think I’d actually use them! I don’ t kill people outside the books). And before we left, we all got some souvenirs: tiny can openers to open C-rations with. I’m not sure how we ended up getting those, but I was definitely grateful to receive mine.

But most of all, I was grateful to speak to so many veterans. The people who experienced WWII first-hand are a dying breed, as one vet observed during the final photo-op. And it’s true. We are losing more WWII vets and Holocaust survivors everyday. Getting to speak to them is a privilege that my children (should I have any) won’t be able to have. If the chance to speak to these living treasure troves of history presents itself to you, I hope you take advantage of it. I’m certainly glad I did.

I have to get back to the homework I have. The day just got away from me and I have a little bit more I want to work on before the day is out. And if I can get my hands on those photos, I will try to post them here on this blog, because it’d be an honor to share them with you all. See you later, my Followers of Fear.

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Comments
  1. Amen to that. It wasn’t that long ago that the world lost its last surviving World War I veteran. Such a terrible loss, and of course, you worry that with no one left who actually remembers the events, the world will forget the lessons. I have had a chance to talk to some veterans before, and one even gave me some memorabilia. I hope to see more soon in Europe. Hope you find some as well.

    • From your mouth to God’s Ears! Thanks as always Matt. And I certainly hope nobody forgets the lessons of that war. God knows Vladimir Putin has forgotten them, and look what he’s been up to lately.

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