A gift of thanks to World War II veterans

View of WWII Memorial from Washington Monument

 

A group that’s doing important work in preserving veterans’ stories is the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable. “Our primary mission is to collect, document and preserve the personal experiences of U.S. wartime veterans and home front workers who served in support of them,” according to its website, http://www.lvveteranshistory.org/

 Since 2007, the roundtable has been doing just that. In monthly meetings at the Lehigh County Senior Center in Allentown, its members have hosted veterans who talk about what they have seen and done in war. 

 The roundtable’s volunteers also have gone to veterans’ homes and video-recorded the vets’ remembrances for the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/vets/. That project, begun in 2000, forges ahead “so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” 

 I’m on board with that. It’s what my 11-year-old series in The Morning Call, War Stories: In Their Own Words, is about. (All of the personal accounts are at www.mcall.com/warstories.) 

 Now, the Veterans History Project Roundtable is going a step further on behalf of the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. 

 The roundtable has something special planned for local World War II veterans this fall. These vets are among 2.3 million survivors who are dying at the rate of 850 a day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,   http://www1.va.gov/VETDATA/Pocket-Card/4X6_spring10_sharepoint.pdf 

 Here’s a recently e-mailed press release from my friend Dick Musselman, himself a veteran and one of the roundtable’s leaders:  

 “Could you imagine winning the Super Bowl, then having to wait almost 60 years to get the trophy—or sadly, passing away before ever being recognized as a champion? Or even worse, could you picture being fortunate to live long enough to finally receive the proper recognition you deserve, only to find yourself without the means to travel to the site of your big presentation? 

 “That is the plight that many of our still-living local World War II veterans are experiencing today. 

 “It’s hard to fathom, but many of our local heroes have never had the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.—a memorial which honors the men and women who so valiantly served their country in the greatest calamity the world has ever known. http://www.wwiimemorial.com/ 

 “Because the memorial (which finally opened in 2004) took almost 60 years to complete, many of this Greatest Generation have never had the opportunity to experience it. But with your help, those brave individuals who fought on foreign shores so that future generations would experience the freedom and liberties we enjoy today can finally visit the memorial erected to honor their service. 

 “On Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, the members of the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable will be offering an all-expense paid trip to Washington to visit the WWII Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. An Easton Coach bus will leave Allentown at approximately 7 a.m. with 54 local veterans aboard. A box lunch will be provided as we spend time at the historic Fort Myers, which is adjacent to Arlington Cemetery. The bus will stop for dinner on the way back to Allentown, which is expected to arrive at approximately 8 p.m. Medical personnel will also be on board to attend to any unforeseen medical issues. This trip will be handicapped-accessible.” 

 Dick goes on to say the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable is accepting donations to support the trip. “This is your chance to say ‘thank you’ and to honor some of the local veterans living among us,” he writes. Checks made out to The LVVHPRT can be sent to another roundtable leader, Mike Sewards, at 204 S. 17th St., Allentown, PA 18104. (The Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable is a Pennsylvania-registered nonprofit organization.) 

 The trip is a terrific idea, and I felt honored when Mike and Dick invited me to go along. Of course, I accepted. I want to be with these proud local vets when they stand at their place of honor.

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