Thursday, March 8, 2012

1,000 Veterans Needed

The room was silent because the man next to me cried. His emotions had forced him to stop momentarily, but the room waited, patiently, for him to collect himself before continuing his story. As we waited silently for him to catch his breath, I sat in awe at what was occurring before me. Having again rallied himself, Frank Walsh resumed his tale. Long, long ago, in December 1944, as a young soldier fighting in the Second World War, his unit joined the Allied forces attempting to halt a massive German offensive in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. One bitter winter day, in the heat of this climatic battle, one of his comrades was injured and began to call for help. Heavy enemy fire prevented all of Frank’s attempts to reach the man, and forced him to withdraw back to his platoon’s position.
Mr. Walsh shared this story in December of 2008, nearly 64 years since those fateful moments. Yet the emotion in his voice made me feel like it happened only yesterday. His face and tone expressed clearly the guilt he carried for being unable to save his fellow soldier. Seeing the impact those few moments had on his life, even six and half decades after the event, made a deep impression on me. Only twelve years old, I had never seen anyone so affected by a single experience. When I got home later that day, I immediately found a notebook and wrote down Mr. Walsh’s story while it remained fresh in my mind. I didn’t want to forget what I had heard that day.
My name is Kyle Miller, I am 15 years old, and an associate member of the Litsinberger Chapter of Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. It was at one of my chapter meetings that I heard Mr. Walsh’s story. That cold December afternoon of 2008 changed my life. These shuffling old men were transformed as I began to realize and appreciate their sacrifice, their honor, their gift to my generation. I suddenly realized the personal experiences and memories of these veterans paint the true image of war; the terror, the absurdity, the reality. This picture is quickly fading from the view of my generation. These fine veterans of the Litsenberger Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of Bulge shared not only their stories, but their friendship with me. Sadly, five of my friends, including Mr. Walsh, have died in the last two years. In honor of them, I decided to make the preservation of this generation’s legacy, a personal mission.
As a Boy Scout in Troop 826, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, I earned the rank of Life last November. That is when I really had to start thinking about what I wanted my Eagle project to be. I wanted my project to reflect my interests and benefit a part of the community that I felt deserved it. As I brainstormed a wide range of ideas, I remembered a newspaper article that my grandmother had given me over three years ago; the very article that inspired me to join the Litsinberger Chapter. The article spoke of World War II veterans seeking to pass their stories on to younger people. As I thought about that article and my friends of the Litsinberger Chapter, I knew I wanted my project to help preserve their legacy.
Like the veterans seeking younger people, I am now seeking veterans. My Eagle Project vision is to capture and preserve the stories of 1,000 World War II and Korean War Veterans. Yes, that’s right, 1,000 personal, human, stories from our servicemen and women. Their experiences will be archived and available for anyone to hear. In this way, who they are and what they did will not be forgotten!
I can’t pull off this project by myself; I am going to need a lot of help! To help with the collection of stories and to provide an archive, I have created a website called Voices From the Front If you are a veteran and would like to share your story, please go to http://voicesfromthefront.org and register as an interested veteran today. If you know a veteran that might be interested in sharing his or her story, help spread the word of my project by giving them the name of my website.
I need volunteers! I need help interviewing veterans, writing, editing, and publishing their stories, and help editing audio and video footage from recorded interviews. I need all the help I can get! If you are interested in meeting our nation’s military veterans, like to write, or know how to edit digital footage, go online and register as a volunteer, or contact me at kyle.miller@voicesfromthefront.org to see how you can get involved.
I need donations to pay for expenses! Generous contributions of any size are appreciated! If you donate $15 to our mission we will give you a free Voices from the Front T-Shirt. Don’t need a T-Shirt? You can designate your t-shirt for a veteran. Just donate $15 and we will give a shirt to the next veteran we interview.
They call World War II veterans the Greatest Generation, and by preserving their legacy we will ensure that future generations will never forget their courage, honor, and spirit. Go to voicesfromthefront.org and find out how you can get involved today, and working together, we can all give back to those we owe so much.
Thank you for your support of our mission.
P.S. About a month ago, a veteran I had recently interviewed called me and asked that his story not be published. While I was disappointed, I agreed to his request. I want all veterans to remember this is YOUR story, if you decide you don’t wish to share your story, even if you initially agreed to, it is never too late to change your mind. If there is one or two particular experiences you don’t wish to discuss, share the rest of your story with us, and leave that part out. I understand and respect that some things are better left unsaid.
I’m no hero,” one veteran I was trying to interview told me. Many of the veterans I have interviewed insist they are not the heroes. It’s funny, but the supply guys and the office guys always say, “It’s the soldiers on the front lines who are the heroes.
The soldiers on the front lines always say, “The real heroes are the ones who didn’t make it home.”
For me, every soldier, from the one sitting behind a desk to the one lying in the cemetery deserves my respect and my gratitude. And he has it. If you don’t want share your story because you don’t consider yourself a hero, or you think your actions aren’t worth mentioning, call me. Maybe I can change your mind.
Kyle Miller – 740-675-1116 or e-mail me kyle.miller@voicesfromthefront.org
     

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