Quite Something

Archive for December, 2007

Veterans Day cont’d: remembering WWII vets

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

I’ve always had an interest in the 1940s, perhaps because of all the beautiful fashions that came out of that era, but my interest was heightened during the writing of All on Account of You: A True WWII Love Story (www.lulu.com/content/574604). My mother was a fashion designer in New York, and the book is the story of her life.

Of all the events she and I did this fall, the one that stands out in my mind is the book signing at the West Regional Library in Morrisville, NC. It was organized by Becky Woodhouse, a librarian with a special interest in WWII stories. She invited folks from several of the senior residences in the area. After my talk, two veterans opened up about their experiences during WWII. It turned out that the guys were both New Yorkers and actually live in the same complex near the library, but had never met! They were still talking in the parking lot as we were leaving, and I have a feeling that they’re probably best buddies by now. After hearing their stories and watching Ken Burns’ documentary The War on PBS in September, Veterans Day became much more personal for me this year. Although my dad served in the Navy, my oldest brother served in Korea, and the next in Vietnam, none of them had ever really talked to me about their service. My Veterans Day article “Remembering Our WWII Vets: Getting to Know Dad” (www.newsobserver.com/674/story/769469.html) was published in The News and Observer on Monday, November 12th. This piece must have hit a nerve, because I received quite a bit of feedback in response to it.

—Elaine

Veterans Day 2007: WWII programs and projects

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

In conjunction with the Ken Burns’ documentary The War, the NC Museum of History put on a one-day WWII program in September. The kids’ portion of the event was hands-on, with activities such as trying on military uniforms, making dogtags, and planting victory gardens. I was excited to attend because the museum had recently starting carrying All on Account of You: A True WWII Love Story in their gift shop.

Having older parents, I grew up listening to big band music, but was not prepared for the emotional impact of hearing a live big band in the lobby of the museum. Fifty or so people of all ages were out on the floor learning swing dancing. The temporary exhibit “Everybody’s War:North Carolina and World War II,” which includes artifacts, images, and stories chronicling the contributions of North Carolinians during wartime, is worth seeing.

While at the museum, I interviewed Dave Milidonis, Executive Director of the National Veterans Freedom Park in Cary, NC (www.nationalveteransfreedompark.com), for an article. The foundation created to build the park over a five year period has impressive goals such as: honoring and commemorating those who have served in America’s armed services, educating young people about the meaning of freedom, and fostering civic pride.

I learned that many Army and Air Force personnel lost their records in a disastrous 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. Some of those vets are being denied military funerals because the government has no record of their service. An additional goal of the Veterans Freedom Park is to try to help vets and their families reconstruct those records.

Along those lines, PBS and Veterans History Project are collaborating to gather first-hand accounts of men and women who have served our nation during wartime. The nonprofit organization The National Combat History Archive is also collecting combat film, photographs, and personal memoirs in order to preserve our rich military heritage. I write about both initiatives in “Share Your Wartime Recollections,” an article which appears in the current (December 2007) issue of Military Officer Magazine.

—Elaine