Thursday, January 19, 2012

Before It's Too Late

I didn't get a nap today. I'm sure it's somewhere in the retiree handbook, and if I weren't so snippy just now, I'd look it up, but I know naps are mandatory.
On the upside I did get to interview a 90 year old WWII veteran. He stood straight and tall as he greeted me.
He had piercing grey-blue eyes and his handshake was as firm as that of a young ambitions banker. I didn't have to ask a lot of questions, I just turned the recorder on and asked him to tell me his story.
There was no boasting or bravado in his voice, but he wove a compelling story of a young boy born in Bessemer, Alabama who joined the Air Force shortly after Pearl Harbor. 
He was trained as a pilot by the Royal Air Force  (British), because America didn't have enough qualified instructors.
He flew missions throughout the war and was shot down over France in the summer of 1944. 
Seven of the 10 crewman died but by some strange twist of fate, he survived.
After the war, he looked up the families of six of the crewmen who perished in the crash.
When he told me that part of the story he choked up and tears filled his eyes, and so did mine. "War is bad," he said "but the loss of freedom is much worse."
The two hours I spent with him passed with a blink of an eye. And when I left, he shook my hand and told me how much he appreciated me stopping by to hear his story. I told him it was an honor.
I've said this before, but each time I talk to one of the older folks I'm reminded that with each passing day, stories are lost to the grave.
I think we can all do something remarkable if we can somehow capture some of these stories before it's too late.


  1. Good for you for recording this.
    I recorded Dad a few years back. He's in his late 80s now and served in the Philippines. (Don't ask him about MacArthur; you'll get an earful.)

  2. Great post Rick! I think it's wonderful to get these interviews. I remember my Dad telling stories of his WWII service, but as a kid you don't think of writing them down, nor do you think your Dad won't always be there to tell them. He died when he was 56..he'd be 92 this year and I sure wish we could have had his stories in print or on a recording. This story gave me tears. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Rick - Another fine Alabama vignette. Thanks for letting us in on it.

    BTW - over at S & W we're talking about lobotomies. Got any thoughts? :)

  4. My mom has written her memoir so the family will always have her stories. I'm so glad she did this.

  5. What a wonderful man!!! Glad he got to share his memories with you - I think that's so important as veterans age and the years pass. No-one must ever forget such sacrifices!

    Take care

  6. I think it was worth giving up your nap for! What an amazing man. THANKS. sandie

  7. May God bless all our vets. I have a special place in my heart for WW2 vets as my dad and my FIL both served. My hubs sat down with each one and interviewed them getting their story. Oh how we miss them now.

  8. My grandparents told me lots of stories - now I wish I'd found time to hear more of them.

  9. Great post Rick. I totally agree with you. I always enjoy talking to older people and getting some tidbits of their life stories. It's fascinating.

  10. I once interviewed a veteran of The Battle of the Bulge. He was a glider pilot. Such a nice man. He choked up when he spoke of all the good men killed, his best friend gone in an instant. What hell.

    Janie Junebug


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