Sometimes people want to know what happens when I interview a World War II veteran. It’s a process and always a privilege.
First, I allot two hours for the interview. This does not include the time it takes to drive to/from the place where the veteran lives.
The two hours does include my getting set up with my tape recorder, notepad, getting both of us settled across from each other and then the actual talking. That can be quite a brain strain for the veteran! They are reaching back 70+ years for details! I recently listed the questions that I typically ask—53 minimum! Whew!
Then there are photos—prior to the interview I ask the veteran and/or his /her family to gather mementos, photos, souvenirs, books, cap/T-shirt from an Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana trip, medals, anything brought home from the war.
I’ve seen Nazi flags, Hitler Youth T-shirt, guns from many countries, Japanese shoes, Navy logbooks, uniforms, photos of locales all over the world. It’s all 70+ years old and fascinating!
I then drape these items over and around the veteran for the photos. I take several shots with my digital camera and then shoot more pics with my iPad to post online.
Then I ask the veteran to tell me of a brief incident that happened to him/her during the war. I tape that incident in a minute or so on the ipad.
The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper has been publishing my World War II stories. They have sometimes used these vids on their website (News-Sentinel.com).
You can access my stories here: Kayleen Reusser WWII stories.
These are different stories than the 28 listed in my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans.
I use my handheld scanner to scan old photos (I always try to get one of the veteran in uniform and any others), documents for verification and even book pages.
Finally, I pack up my gear in a small suitcase, thank the veteran for his/her time and leave. By the end of the time, I’m tired but exhilarated. I think the veteran is probably tired too! The interview is quite a mind-numbing session, but totally worth it.
Each interview means I’ve made a new friend. That’s how I see the vets and how I hope they view me.
I’m thrilled because another veteran has entrusted his/her story to me. That is a privilege.
I’m also thrilled because we have another piece of our national heritage documented. So far, I’ve interviewed 100+ vets from across Indiana.
They are not just a number. Each story is unique and precious. I record each veteran’s birthday and send them cards. I’m also going to send Christmas cards this year! When possible, I visit the vets.
Sure, I wish I had begun interviewing like this 10 years ago. But I was not ready then for the commitment it requires. I believe in ‘better late than never’.
Hey, we have 100 stories that we didn’t have a few months ago!
What are you doing to preserve our nation’s heritage?