Hundreds Attend Book Launch to tell WWII Vets Thanks

Many of you participated in our book launch party for They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans on Saturday, Nov 4, 2017, at the Allen County Public Library.

I think it’s safe to say, as the photo below shows, it was a smashing success! Several hundred people are estimated to have attended to meet/ greet some of our nation’s oldest veterans.

crowd

An amazing number of the 34 veterans from the book – 17 – were present. Two additional veterans were represented by family members, which meant much to me. Kurt Wallenstein whose father was Robert Wallenstein, better known in the Fort Wayne area, as WOWO Komet Hockey announcer Bob Chase wrote me these words: “Thank you for the beautiful book and celebrating the lives of all of those great men and women.”

Huffer

Someone who attended who was not related to the veterans wrote me: “Thank you for acting on the realization that veterans had a story that my/our hearts needed to hear!”

Zeissig

I’m so touched by the dedication the public showed by patiently standing in line, waiting for opportunities to have veterans sign their books and speak with them.

Conrad Gaylord

My goal was to have the veterans, all of whom are at least 90 years old, be glad they had made the effort to attend. As far as I could tell, they all left with smiles on their faces.

If you were able to attend, please share your thoughts/ comments/photos about the day.

Kjreusser@adamswells.com

My email newsletter contains up-to-date info about my interviews, books, speaking events, etc. There is no cost and I don’t sell your address. Contact me through my contact form here at this site or my email address above.

If you’ve read They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans, would you consider posting a review on Amazon at  http://amzn.to/2yRAbcq ?

My other book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans, contains 28 stories similar to those in They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans. You can find it & post a review at Amazon (http://amzn.to/2hJdwaW).

The reviews will help more people learn about the great people who served in World War II.

As always, I appreciate your support!

I plan to write more books in 2018 so stay tuned!

 

 

Funeral of a Soldier

Thx to all who served sign

Ever attend the funeral of someone you don’t know? Yesterday I did so and it affected me greatly.

I don’t mean it was a long-ago friend of my husband’s or one of my kids’ teachers. This person was not related to me or acquainted with anyone I know.

Why would I attend a funeral for someone so distant from me? Because he was a Vietnam-era veteran with no family.

James Beavers served 1963-1966– it was not in Vietnam but the specs of where he served are unknown. Here is the obit from D.O. McComb & Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home:

James Beavers , 74, passed away Monday, November 23, 2015 in Fort Wayne. He was a US Army Vietnam-era War Veteran. He has no surviving family. Funeral Service is 2:00 pm, December 17, 2015 at – D.O. McComb & Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home, 1140 Lake Avenue with calling from noon until service time. Burial in Riverview Cemetery, Churubusco, Indiana with military honors.

Reporters uncovered other tidbits of information about Mr. Beavers:

He was a disabled Vietnam War Veteran, who held the rank of Private. He was an orphan, originally from Marion, Ind. He was never married, and never had children. He was honorably discharged. Where he worked (if he worked) after the war is a mystery. As the Brits say, ‘He kept himself to himself.’

After 3 weeks of searching for family to claim Mr. Beavers’ body for burial, no one came forward.

The Allen County coroner finally gave up. Thankfully, a local funeral home offered to conduct a funeral for Mr. Beavers and invited the public to attend to show their respect for him and his service.

Estimates of possibly (I’d say probably) more than 1,000 people – many from out of state—were there.

People of all ages attended the funeral. A woman I would suspect was close to 90 years old sat in front of me. A family with a baby sat beside me. Lots of teens were there, which was refreshing, as well as dozens of law enforcement and military groups. It was crowded but everyone was patient and kind.

The funeral lasted about 45 minutes. People prayed and a woman sang a beautiful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. There were even bagpipes.

The internment with military burial was in a town about 45 minutes away. From news reports apparently many people attended that as well.

Keep in mind it was the middle of a weekday a week before Christmas. Everyone there, including me, probably still has shopping to complete for next week.

Ouabache display night Iwo

Obviously, we all felt it was worth our time to show respect for this veteran that had no social connections. None of us had anything to gain by being there.

As part of a military family, it was a privilege to honor Mr. Beavers by attending his funeral. I don’t know how he would have felt about it, had he known thousands of complete strangers would walk past his casket, most stopping for a moment and many adding a salute.

Hopefully, he would have been okay with that.

Still, it bothers me to think we may still have vets forgotten and feeling they are unappreciated. It may have been the way Mr. Beavers wanted to live, though it could not have been healthy for him to be behind doors much of his later years of life.

Perhaps people did try to reach out and were rebuffed. Perhaps things happened to Mr. Beavers while in military service that disturbed him so much he could not deal with people after the war.

Having had the privilege of interviewing a few Vietnam vets, I’ll say that I wish that period of American history could be re-written.

I wish we would have treated our vets more respectfully. As one Vietnam veteran I stood next to in line for viewing told me, “When I got off the boat in San Francisco, I didn’t know Americans protested our part in the war. That changed as soon as a man spit on me.”

This veteran went on to say he made it easier for the spitter to spit in the future (draw your own conclusions).

But he added that he went to Vietnam because in this country people are allowed to protest.

That’s freedom.

Ouabache display night knee

It was not prudent or, in my opinion American, for the protester to spit on a soldier, but he was afforded the opportunity to stand on the street and publicly acknowledge something about our government he didn’t agree with because our government allows him to do so.

I repeat, that’s freedom. It’s not something every country offers in this world and I’m proud of our nation for still offering that freedom today 50 years later. I don’t take that for granted and hope you don’t either.

I just wish all of our vets could find peace with our responses to their service.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it. Thank a veteran. Better yet, go see him/her and make an effort to be their friend or at least someone who shows respect for their military service.

If any veteran reads this, please know the family of this writer appreciates what you have done for our country.

Thank you.

 

Opportunity to Meet/Honor WWII Vets!

Paul Sell (1926-2014)

Paul Sell (1926-2014)

A big FREE event is coming up one week from today for all of you military supporters/ history lovers around Fort Wayne!

 

On November 1, starting at 2pm at the Fort Wayne History CenterI will talk about my project of interviewing World War II vets as part of the George Mather lecture series.

 aaBurns Virgil uni

A year ago, I wrote a book with 28 stories from WW II vets in Adams, Allen, Huntington, Whitley and Wells counties. The book’s title is World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

 

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

There will be a book signing that day. The book sells for $20 on Amazon and through this website. If you purchase a copy and like the stories, would you please post a review at Amazon? Thanks!

  

I’m excited to talk about the writing of my book and my ongoing goal to interview as many World War II vets as possible. I believe they could all be deceased within the next five years. Keep in mind their minimum age is now 88 years old!

 aaSchultz Cal old

Their stories are too valuable to lose!  

Recently I interviewed my 100th World War II vet! The photos on this blog are among those WWII I’ve interviewed who were born in October.

 100 WWII vets 2015

This poster I made contains all of their precious faces. I’ll have the poster at the lecture for you to examine.

Dr. Justin Arata--Navy

Dr. Justin Arata–Navy

I’ve asked several World War II vets to attend the lecture. We’ll recognize the vets by branch and then allow time for the public to greet them.  

It will be a chance for people to meet/greet World War II vets they may not have known were in their community. It’s also a great way for them to see people they may have known in the past and served with. Wouldn’t that be a cool occurrence?

 

I hope this event is something those of you who live in the northeast Indiana area will put on your calendars and choose to attend with family and friends. Better yet, bring another veteran of any era with you so he/she can participate in the special event!

 

And bring kids with you so they have the experience to meet a World War II veteran. You never know what impact this meeting may have on their lives!

 

The Fort Wayne History Center is located at 302 East Berry Street in Fort Wayne. They have a convenient parking lot (free) next to the door. There is an elevator to the floor with the lecture, which is also free.

Also the News-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Wayne has been publishing new World War II stories I’ve written of vets in our area every other Monday since February. The next story is due out tomorrow. Please read it and if you like it, please let the editors know. I’m hoping they’ll allow the column to continue as long as we have vets around to tell their stories!

 Always remember 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?

 

Birthday Tribute to World War II Vet Don Shady

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Today I want to say ‘Happy birthday’ and give tribute to a World War II vet that I’m happy to call my friend.

We attend the same church and usually see each other weekly, but I didn’t know Don Shady well when I interviewed him about his experiences in the Army Air Corps during the war.

In fact, I had not interviewed many Army Air Corps members at that time and fear I may have burdened him with some silly questions about the American military’s newest branch (it became the Air Force in 1947).

But Don was patient with me and believed in me enough to allow me to put his story in the book World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

His is one of 28 World War II stories from Allen, Adams, Wells, Whitley, Huntington counties.

Don shared accounts of when he was piloting a C47 during battle. The following is an edited excerpt from my book:

In December 1944 Lieutenant Shady was involved in the Siege of Bastogne. It was a battle between American and German forces at the Belgian town of that name.

Weather aided the German army’s efforts. “A low ceiling from cloud cover prevented us from taking in supplies early by air, but we flew on Christmas Day and the day after,” said Shady. The siege lasted one week until the nearly depleted American forces were relieved by General George Patton’s Third Army.

Since the book has been published, Don has helped with its publicity.

Front row: Bob Foster, Don Shady. Back row: Nelson Price, Kayleen Reusser

Front row: Bob Foster, Don Shady. Back row: Nelson Price, Kayleen Reusser

On February 28, Don and another vet featured in my book, Bob Foster, accompanied John and me to Indianapolis to be interviewed by Nelson Price on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis. The hour-long show, Reflections of World War II veterans, was a success largely due to Don’s contribution in recounting his war experiences.

He had shared with me that he had never been on the radio in his life. It meant a lot to me that he was willing to venture out on a snowy day to go with us on an all-day trip.

WWII vet Shady good

More recently Don and three local World War II vets participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Wells County Public Library. Don shared his story of helping to liberate Polish prisoners of war back to their homeland. “They were filthy and we had to delouse the plane after each trip, but it was rewarding,” he said.

Thanks Don for being such a gentleman and kind friend. I’m glad we’ve gotten to know each other.

**

WWII Legacies: Stories of NE IN Veterans is available at this site’s homepage using the Paypal button.

British Naval Officer Lived in Churchill’s Home

British-born Dorothy Blue holds book about Winston Churchill which mentions her military service during WWII.

British-born Dorothy Blue holds book about Winston Churchill which mentions her military service during WWII.

 

 

 

 

World War II involved more than American soldiers. I say that facetiously because of course, many countries were fighting for years before the US was involved.

 

I had the privilege a few years ago of meeting a gal who was British and who had an unusual connection with World War II. What those poor people experienced is hard to imagine. If you’d like to get a good idea, I recommend Foyle’s War, available on DVD and Acorn Online. This is an EXCELLENT series about Britain’s role in WWII from the viewpoint of a policeman who solves crimes along the coast.

This show has received many awards and continues today after 8 seasons. I’ve viewed it many times and always learn something about the war. It was created by Anthony Horowitz who also wrote many episodes. I’m interested in other personal, untold stories about WWII. Please let me know if you have one you’d like to share.

Stories like this make up my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans. If you’d like to order a copy, click on the Paypal button at the top of the Homepage of this site.

Tell an American military veteran thank you today!

**

It was a wedding Dorothy Blue of Ossian, IN, was sorry to miss. Unfortunately, Blue, 88, didn’t feel well enough to travel, especially the distance from her Ossian home to the location of this special occasion. She sent an apology letter at having to miss the happy union.

Attending the happy event would have indeed meant a great deal of travel and effort. For one thing, the union took place overseas, in London, to be exact.

 It might have also been a challenge traveling through the streets of England’s capital to Westminster Abbey where the wedding would take place. As it happened, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world had come to London, hoping to glimpse the famous pair being wed. 

On April 29, 2011, Blue watched the wedding to which she had been invited on TV. Prince William and Catherine Middleton were made man and wife in an event that was surely one of the most exciting events in England’s history for the past several decades.

Blue’s invitation to the Royal Wedding was the result of more than half a century of friendship between herself and that of the famous British leader of World War II, Winston Churchill.

 

“During the war, I served as secretary to Lord Moran, Churchill’s physician,” she said. “Mr Churchill and I met through that acquaintance.” Churchill’s grand-nephews had issued the invitation to Blue to attend the wedding.

 

Blue’s six degrees of separation to meeting Churchill began when she joined the British Navy in 1939.  Born in 1923 in England, Blue had won a scholarship to King’s College in London at age 16. For two years she studied music and psychology.

 

When in 1939 England declared war on Germany, Blue was ready to volunteer. She and her parents had been bombed in an air raid shelter and lost their home. Dorothy joined the military; her parents lived in the air raid shelter for five years during the ensuing war.

 

Blue served as an ensign officer in the British Navy. Her duties included serving as secretary to Dr. Charles McMoran Wilson. Lord Moran, as the doctor was known, was Churchill’s primary physician from 1940 when the latter became Prime Minister until Churchill’s death in 1965.

 

Born in 1874, Churchill was the most dominant figure in British politics during the war against Germany. According to Blue, Churchill became ill during the latter part of the war and Moran and Blue resided in his home for six months while he recuperated.

 

What was it like living in Winston Churchill’s home? “Mr. Churchill had a large, luxurious home with maids and a butler,” Blue recalled. “While living there, it was hard to remember there was a war going on.” As for the man himself, Blue observed, “He drank brandy and smoked cigars and was very loyal to England. He was a nice man.” At the time Churchill’s wife lived at another residence.

 

Blue’s dedication to her work and the Prime Minister was such that when Lord Moran wrote his book, Churchill: Taken from the Diaries of Lord Moran (published by Houghton Mifflin 1966 in Boston) he dedicated it to her. The dedication stated, “To Dorothy who has been given back to me and to John & Jeffrey (Churchill’s grandsons)”. Lord Moran also included incidents about her in the book. “The dedication referred to a time when the military had re-assigned me to another position and then returned me to work with Lord Moran,” said Blue.

 

On the day of our interview Dorothy Blue said her daughter had the invitation to the Royal Wedding.

 

In 1945 Dorothy married John Mead, an American soldier. They left England to move to Mead’s hometown of Huntington, Indiana. The couple became parents to a son and daughter and later, three grandchildren. Dorothy worked for many years at the Huntington Court House in the Auditors office.

 

John Mead died in 1983 and Dorothy remarried Harold Blue in 1991. They moved to Ossian in 1996.

 

Sadly, Dorothy’s son from her first marriage, Kent who was an Air Force pilot, died in a training accident at Sawyer Air Force Base in 2000. Harold Blue died within three weeks of Kent.

 

Dorothy died in 2013. Her life was unusual and sometimes difficult but she continued to contribute to her community by volunteering with various craft groups and her church. “I tried to take everything in stride during my life,” she said. “The war was everywhere and I saw much sadness, but overall I’ve led a fantastic life.”

 

 

 

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

I’d like to recognize a vet who passed away last year. Elmo Rieddle was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1943. He worked two years as a mechanic for the 486th Bomb Squadron at Sudbury England. After he was discharged at the war’s end, he was a member of the Army National Guard for many years. “I was glad to have served,” he told me. “I would have hated to have not served.”

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

I get excited each time it works out for me to interview another World War II vet. At this point the total number of World War II vets I’ve interviewed over the past few years is 75.

 

I’m trying to average two per week, but the wintry weather is making it a challenge.

 

This week I’m averaging three interviews. If all goes well this weekend, I’ll interview a man who has been on an Honor Flight for Northeast Indiana but that is all I know of him. Can’t wait to pick his brain tonight!

His daughter will be there to also hear the stories.

 

Tomorrow I plan to interview a female who is 101 years old! She served as a nurse during the war. Her two children will be there to help with stories she has told them. She will be only the second person I’ve ever interviewed who is a centenarian! I’m looking forward to each of these interviews. My goal is to interview as many World War II vets as possible.

 

What are you doing to keep history alive? We all can do something!

In the same vein what are you doing to thank our nation’s vets of all ages/ eras for their service? I’ll say it again—THANK YOU! We appreciate your service on our behalf!

Tell a vet thank you today!