Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Startling Reality: Stories Left Untold Forever

We at the C.V. Starr Center have been incredibly fortunate to have interviewed many of our nation’s greatest heroes, all thanks to the amazing work of our liaison at the Heron Point Retirement Community in Chestertown, Maryland. Their stories, now preserved, will be serving as a wealth of information for generations to come. While we will—one day—pass on to the next world, the first-hand accounts of one of our country’s most trying times will be forever available to scholars decades into the future.

Just a few weeks ago, Rachel, Alex, and I were informed of some startling news: since the beginning of our interview process, six of the potential WWII candidates lined up to be interviewed had sadly passed away. 
We were stunned. In a span of five to seven months, we had lost half a dozen stories to the ages.

While some of our departed heroes may have shared of their struggles, triumphs, and experiences with family or friends, many may have decided to do as those of their generation have done for many years: they could have refrained from telling with those who did not share in the conflict. This should not seem as though such veterans were holding back from the world, many heroes decided to keep the burdens of their service to themselves, so as not to upset those they loved.  In a way, they didn’t want to put their struggles off on anyone else; they saw it as part of their service to preserve the strength and safety of their family and friends, and not to worry them. In many other aspects, some may not have seen their own stories as all too important. Clearly, this represents a sincere humility on their part.

That being said, the reality remains the same. For about six or so individuals, we will never be able to share their stories with the world. We will never be able to preserve their experiences of WWII with future generations to come. In losing those six accounts, we have lost forever six different and completely unique experiences of American history. Who knows what could have been uncovered, revealed to all those who revere American history for what it has to teach us.

There will soon come a time when not a single person will be left from some of America’s most defining points in history. As a student of history, and with a sincere appreciation for American values, I believe that for any American citizen, it is our obligation to preserve as much as we can about the roads which have come before us. Without knowing where we have been, we will never truly know where we are going.
In moving forward with our Veterans History Project, I truly believe that each of us will continue our work knowing full well that time is fleeting. These golden opportunities to record the history of American Heroes are not to be taken for granted.

My final thoughts on this matter are for you. If you have anyone close to you who has a story to share about their service, or any other type of story for that matter, I would strongly suggest sitting down one day to hear it. That opportunity may not be around much longer.