Bucket List: Take WWII Tour of Europe– Done!

My husband and I just returned from a 2-week World War II tour of Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany! The photo of my husband and me is on the patio of the ‘Eagle’s Nest’, Hitler’s retreat center, above the village of Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Mardasson_Memorial_Bastogne 6-17

We went with a group of 29 Americans and 3 Australians and one Chinese woman as part of World War II Tours of Europe. This photo is at the Mardasson Memorial at Bastogne, Belgium.

Talk about a whirlwind trip! Our guide, Dennis Ross, was experienced and so organized which made the trip enjoyable. We covered 2,000 km and five countries via a luxurious motor coach with a great driver named Gundolph.

It was exhausting, but so informational and fascinating. My husband has been interested in World War II for decades. I’ve only become interested since I started interviewing veterans in 2012. Put us together and we can usually spout some piece of knowledge about events in Europe and even the Pacific.

BUT…

This trip showed us how much we didn’t know. We soaked it all in, despite minds/bodies that were recovering from a six-hour time difference and 12-hour days on the road.

La Fiere bridge (8)

This photo was taken on June 6, 2017, at La Fiere Bridge in Normandy (France) region as a tribute from French people to the efforts of American troops 70+ years ago. These and other memorials showed us how much the European Allied countries continue to demonstrate their appreciation for our efforts on their behalf during their occupation by Nazis.

Compeigne For (2)

Photo: Museum at Compiegne Forest (France) where armistice was signed 1918, ending WWI with Germany’s defeat.

We visited the usual tourist sites like museums and had guided tours of Paris, Dachau, Nuremberg, Luxembourg, all of which was just up our alley (I was usually near the front to be sure to hear every word!)

Bastogne foxhole (4)

We stood in an actual foxhole in a woods in Bastogne where troops would have sought shelter from freezing weather and enemy troops.

We stood in the war room of Bastogne where in December 1944 General Anthony McAuliffe declared “Nuts!” to the Nazis’ demands that he surrender the 101st Airborne and its attached troops. Gen. McAuliffe and his troops held off the siege until reinforcements arrived from Allied troops.

Many of these and other examples of courage and determination during that mighty war that raged from 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland until 1945 when Axis forces surrendered were new to me. It was a pleasure to learn more about them in person!

 

Pegasus (18)

One of my favorite events was thanking British World War II veterans for their service. This photo was shot during an event honoring these vets on June 5 at Pegasus Bridge. I’ll save details for a later post.

It was great to get home and realize yet again what a great country we have – not perfect but pretty close in terms of helping oppressed countries in so many ways for decades.

I’ll be sharing more information about the trip here in future posts with photos (I shot 800+ and my husband took 350+).

I plan to give PowerPoint presentations on what we saw and learned, implementing quotes from veterans I’ve interviewed where appropriate. Many stories about these sites can be found in my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans.

If you know of a group that would be interested in having me speak on this topic, please contact me via this site’s Contact form.

And if you’ve not already done so, please subscribe to this blog to continue to receive my posts that cover WWII and other stories about American military vets.

Remember to thank a veteran today for his/her service. They deserve our appreciation!

Veteran’s Day-Opp to Honor Our Heroes

241 Remember sign

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for us and many other military families around the nation. Veteran’s Day is perhaps the biggest day of the year for all vets. It gives the public the opportunity to honor them in so many ways.

Vet Day bus

John & I participated in Fort Wayne’s Veteran’s Day Parade. He rode the Air National Guard bus while I walked with the Blue Star Mothers. I had more fun handing out candy to children along the mile-long route, but guess who was more tired at the end of the parade?

Thanks to everyone in the Fort Wayne area – Boy Scouts, school bands, military groups and supporters – for going to the effort of showing our vets how much we appreciate them!

Lineberry class

Speaking opportunities for me to tell people about my World War II book of veteran stories abounded. These are pictures of some places I’ve been.

Belmont Lineberry K

Brian Lineberry allowed me to speak to his class at Bellmont High School in Decatur. The class is studying World War II and preparing to write profiles of fallen World War II soldiers from the area. Cool! I gave them tips on research and what they might discover.

Lani 2015

Lani Mahnensmith asked me to speak to a grief support group that meets at Kingston Retirement Center in Fort Wayne. Met some vets there I’ve interviewed and ate lunch with them. Double cool!

K display

The Allen County Public Library Author Fair was well attended. Several people stopped by to ask about the book and we chatted about World War II vets in the area.

Laurie Gray auth fair

It was fun seeing author friends Laurie Gray (above) and Doris Rapp (below).

Doris Rapp

We all were asked to speak on panels about writing.

Amn 241 fallen heroes display

one last thing to mention—the American Legion 241 Post in Fort Wayne hosted an exhibit that I’m sure moved everyone who viewed it.

It displays names, photos and mementos from family / friends of fallen soldiers from Indiana. The display was organized by a father who feared the public would forget his soldier son after his death. It is respectful and maddening to think of our loss because of their sacrifices on our nation’s behalf.

Hiester

The display is especially meaningful for me as there is a photo of a man who grew up in my church. See lower left.

Master Sergeant Michael Hiester, 33, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 by a mine explosion. He left behind a wife, son, daughter, parents and two sisters, a church who loved him and many, many friends. I love them and respect them so much for carrying on. I don’t know how family get through those painful experiences. The least we can do for our fallen heroes is to show respect for every veteran we meet.

Learn more about this unique exhibit here.

If you have a chance today, thank a veteran for his/her service!

 

 

Veteran’s Day–Opportunity to Recognize Military Service People

This week we have the official opportunity to recognize military service people! Veteran’s Day will be celebrated on Wed, November 11. Remember to thank a veteran!

My wonderful husband John retired after 21 years of serving in the  Air Force and Air National Guard. We're proud of him!

My wonderful husband John retired after 21 years of serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard. We’re proud of him!

On a personal note, my husband will celebrate his birthday on November 10. He is retired with 21 years of service in the Air Force, Grissom Air Reserve Base  in Peru, Indiana in Peru, Indiana and finally at the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne Indiana

We are proud of him and the effort and commitment he has always had to our nation’s security. Happy birthday, John!

**

Marine poster

November 10 is also the birthday of the US Marine Corps. You can read a nice blog post about the Marines at GP Cox’s Pacific Paratrooper blog. I subscribe to this informative and well put-together blog which frequently sends out information about our nation’s vets and their experiences.

Carl Mankey earned two Purple Hearts while fighting in World War II.

Carl Mankey earned two Purple Hearts while fighting in World War II.

In honor of the Marines I’ve included an excerpt of the story from the sole Marine in my book—Carl Mankey.

“On June 22, 1944, Marine Private First Class Carl Mankey led 20 men from his squadron up a mountain in Saipan in the Mariana Islands. Mankey’s goal was to destroy a Japanese machine gun nest that had fired for hours on Allied troops.

Disregarding heavy fire from the enemy, Mankey moved into the open to shoot at the nest with his rifle, tthrowing grenades and hoping to disrupt the firing. Failing to hit the target, Mankey refused to give up. He returned to the machine gun nest, repeating his brave actions. This time he completely destroyed it.”

The story goes on to relate this Marine’s being awarded two Purple Hearts for valor in service in World War II.

This story is one of 28 in my book which is available for $20 at this site and Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift for military/history lover.

front aud

This season I’m speaking at several locales about my World War II book and project of interviewing more than 100 (now 103 to be precise) vets from that era.

Last week the Fort Wayne History Center hosted a lecture featuring my book. A crowd of 60 people listened attentively and later expressed support of the subject.

Roger Myers served as a bombardier during WWII.

Roger Myers served as a bombardier during WWII.

Pelfrey Wyall K

I was thrilled to see two of the vets from my book in the audience—Roger Myers (Army Air Corps) and Marty Wyall (WASP).

Thanks to the staff of the Fort Wayne History Center and Director Todd Pelfrey for allowing me to have this unique opportunity!

John and I also participated in the Fort Wayne (IN) Veteran’s Day parade. He rode in the 122nd’s nice bus. I walked with the Blue Star Mothers—women whose children are or have been in the military.

**

Finally, these vets are among those I’ve interviewed who have November birthdays. Some have passed on– Richard Willey, Wallace Avey, Richard Block. We remember them all for their courage and selflessness.

Wallace Avey-Army

Wallace Avey-Army

Richard Block-Navy

Richard Block-Navy

Robert Kiester - Army Air Corps

Robert Kiester – Army Air Corps

Wayne Sauers- Army

Wayne Sauers- Army

Albert Silk-Army

Albert Silk-Army

Richard Willey-Army

Richard Willey-Army

If you know a veteran, please make an effort to honor them on Veteran’s Day, Christmas, their birthdays, any day.

Spreading the Word about WWII Vets

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In TV studio of WANE Channel 15

Last week was a busy, fruitful week for spreading the word about honoring our nation’s World War II vets!

Not one, not two, but three speaking engagements! One was even on TV! That’s a trifecta for this small town girl who enrolled in Toastmasters to learn how to speak to a group!

On Sunday August 30 at 8:30am WANE Channel 15 in Fort Wayne interviewed me for a segment about my book and my quest to interview as many World War II vets as possible. The link is WANE 15 WWII author

Those three minutes go fast! The hosts were friendly and professional. It was a pleasure working with them to tell my story.

Roth K Seniors 9-3-15 good

On Thursday, September 3, Peggy Roth invited me to speak to a group called LIFT (Living Information For Today). It is sponsored by Dignity Memorial for those who have lost spouses.  We met at Don Hall’s Factory in Fort Wayne. The first hour was a social time to meet other people and have fun in a comfortable setting. Then the group, which meets monthly, has a speaker.

Several in the group of 44, including a female, were veterans so we recognized them for their service. Then I told them about my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans, and my goal to interview as many World War II vets as possible to help preserve our national heritage. Several people purchased copies of my book. I wish I had more time to get to know these kind, friendly people!

Edwards K Sara Wagner

That evening, after a break of a couple of hours, John and I arrived at Dupont branch of Allen County Public Library for yet another event. Branch manager Rebecca Wolfe (right) and I began the first of what we hope will be many monthly World War II veteran talks at the Allen County Public Library Dupont library branch.

The meeting began at 6pm. Al Edwards, a Navy veteran whom I had interviewed for the News-Sentinel WWII stories. This column has run every other Monday since February. Al served as our guest of honor. We had an audience of all ages, including one little guy who was around age 10!

Edwards boy 9-15

The crowd was so interested in listening and asking questions that we went past the 7pm time frame, but no worries as the library stays open on Thursday until 9pm.

Edwards Al grson Wagner

A special bonus for Al is that his grandson showed up to honor his grandfather’s special night. Another young lady was there—Sara Wagner. She served as Al’s guardian on his Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana.  You can see from Al’s expression that he was delighted to see both.

It was a great night and one we plan to do again on the first Thursday of October which happens to be October 1.

We plan to hold these meetings on the first Thursday of the month, weather permitting. Call the library to confirm the date and time.

Here’s a clue for the next month’s meeting: The World War II veteran who has agreed to be our guest was in the Army. He not only helped liberate a concentration camp, but has sobering photos of what he saw there. It’s sure to be an informative evening. He may bring another veteran so we’ll have double the military impact! Please keep in mind that circumstances may influence our choice of speakers.

The Dupont library is located at 536 E. Dupont Rd. 260.421.1315. This is sure to be an educational and poignant series as we learn from our nation’s oldest vets what it was like to serve 70+ years ago!

As always, take the time to thank a veteran for his/her service!

Tips to Interviewing 100+ WWII Veterans

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

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!

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

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.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

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.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

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.

Here’s why.

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?

 

WWII Radio Interview: Success!

Relaxing with Nelson Price (L) after being interviewed on his live radio show.

Relaxing with Nelson Price (L) after being interviewed on his live radio show.

 

You can tell by the expressions on our faces that World War II vets Bob Foster & Don Shady and I enjoyed our time on the air last week with talk show host Nelson Price. Nelson is the host of a long-running live history talk show —Hoosier History Live!

 

Hoosier History Live is the nation’s only live-with-call-in radio history show. It airs noon-1pm ET on WICR 88.7 Indianapolis or online. The studios are located on the campus of University of Indianapolis.

 

Nelson has written several books on the subject of Hoosier (the word ‘Hoosier’ refers to someone from Indiana, for those of you not familiar with our state’s colloquialism) history.

 

The topic of my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans, appealed to Nelson. He graciously invited me to bring two World War II vets profiled in my book to the studio for a live radio interview.

 

Talking on live radio was a new experience for Bob and Don. They did great!

Talking on live radio was a new experience for Bob and Don. They did great!

That meant driving 2 hours each way from northern Indiana where we live and where most of the vets from my book live. It was sure to be a long day, especially if weather was a problem.

 

I was thrilled when Army Air Corps pilot Don Shady and Army vet Bob Foster consented to the trip.

 

You don’t know how many prayers went up for good weather!

 

Thankfully, it was a glorious day with sunshine and clear driving conditions. My wonderful husband, John, drove us to the campus.

 

We were all a little nervous but Nelson’s professional attitude put us at ease. He had questions and a show format prepared and went over them with us before the show. The hour sped by and I was proud of Don and Bob for speaking well on the air.

 

Lunch at Santorini Greek Restaurant with owner Jeanette Sawi was fun and delicious!

Lunch at Santorini Greek Restaurant with owner Jeanette Sawi was fun and delicious!

It was a delight to meet the show’s producer, Molly Head. (That’s her peeking behind my shoulder) She and Nelson dined with us after the show at a nearby Greek restaurant. Santorini Greek Kitchen (1417 E. Prospect St, Indianapolis) was beautiful and a wonderful experience. I had never eaten Greek food except baklava and was not sure what to expect. The food was beyond our expectations.

 

This photo shows just our salads, but we later ate delicious main dishes that I have no way of pronouncing or spelling here. Suffice it to say, we left the restaurant with full, happy stomachs!

 

The restaurant owner, Jeanette Sawi, sat with us for a while and chatted with Don and Bob. I think we created lifelong memories with our visit! Thanks Jeanette and her husband, Taki, for a delicious meal and hospitality!

 

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

I’m booking speaking engagements now about my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

 

If you know of a group that would like to know what it has been like to interview 75+ World War II vets and write a book about some of their experiences, contact me. xxxkjreusser@adamswells.comxxx (remove the X’s which are there to prevent Spam). The book is available now at the Paypal button on my site’s home page at top. It would be a perfect gift for a history lover, Baby Boomer or veteran.

Take the time today to tell a vet thank you!

 

 

WWII Vets to Share Stories on Upcoming Radio Interview

Bob Foster fought with the US Army in WWII.

Bob Foster fought with the US Army in WWII.

On Sat 2/28 my husband John & I will accompany 2 World War II vets from my book — World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans — to University of Indianapolis to be featured on a Hoosier History Live radio show. It airs each Saturday, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM. You can listen live on WICR Online.

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Don Shady was a pre-med major at Indiana University before enlisting in the Army Air Corps. He co-piloted a C-47 in Allied attacks on Germans, then at war’s end his crew transported Polish prisoners of war who had been liberated back to their homeland from German-held territory.

Bob Foster (pictured at top of this post) of Fort Wayne was among the thousands of Allied troops who arrived in Normandy, France, in mid-June 1944 for the Battle of Cherbourg. Six months later, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the war’s most brutal conflicts.
Please show your support of our World War II vets by listening in and maybe even placing a call of support during the show! 317) 927-9101 Thanks!

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

Our host, Nelson Price, has conducted this weekly show for many years. Please tune in and call with a question and thanks to these vets who served our country so well!
WWII Legacies: Stories of NE IN Veterans can be purchased by clicking the Paypal button on this site’s homepage ($20+$4.95 P/H).
Thank a vet today for his/her service!