America is losing its Greatest Generation quickly and despite the years of technological advances since these men and women served in World War II, many of their stories have gone unrecorded. The generation of veterans who served in World War II famously came home and went right back to working and raising their families, keeping the stories of their service to themselves.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that as of 2018, there are fewer than 500,000 World War II veterans still alive and it expects there to be none left within two decades. We are quickly losing the opportunity to record these brave individuals’ stories for posterity. One dedicated young man is on a mission to ensure this opportunity is not lost for the honor of these veterans and their families.
Rishi Sharma is a 21-year-old first-generation immigrant who has made it his life’s mission to “interview at least one WWII combat veteran every single day until the last one passes away.” Sharma began this amazing task when he was just 16 years old by riding his bike to local retirement homes and asking the World War II veterans there to tell him about their service.
Sharma would let them talk about as much of their service as they would like and record a video of the conversation. He would then provide the video in DVD form to the veteran for them to share with their family if they chose. He believes it is important to provide these veterans the ability to share their stories, “in a censor-free environment” in order to bring awareness to their sacrifices. According to Sharma, each interview lasts between four and six hours.
Sharma soon exhausted the local pool of World War II veterans available so he established the nonprofit Heroes Of The Second World War to help find veterans nationwide to interview. He then began to drive through the United States and Canada and has even made one trip to the United Kingdom to conduct interviews. Sharma has conducted 849 recorded interviews to date. Heroes Of The Second World War has a stated mission to:
Film interviews with the remaining WWII combat veterans, to strengthen relationships between these veterans and their communities, and to create a living memorial to pass these veterans’ wisdom on to future generations.
The website provides the means to request an interview with Sharma, to recommend a combat veteran for an interview, and provides a schedule of his upcoming stops to attempt to meet for an impromptu interview. You can also volunteer as a researcher through the website to find these remaining veterans and contact them to set up interviews.
Unfortunately, World War II veterans are dying at an estimated rate of 650 a day in the United States alone. If you have a connection to a World War II veteran, reach out to them and let them know that their service is still appreciated. See if they want to participate in an interview to tell their story for posterity and if so, use this website to schedule an interview. You can also donate through the site to help fund Sharma’s travels across the country and accomplish his mission of interviewing all remaining WWII combat veterans.
The Greatest Generation provided its service to secure our freedom and the least we can do is help provide them the means to share their stories.
Written by NEWSREP guest author, Micah Olsen.
Micah is a reconnaissance man with over 13 years in the United States Marine Corps, including combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as theater security cooperation deployments in Latin America. He has a Bachelor of Science in Global Business from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is continually seeking further educational opportunities. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest where he is slowly remodeling a newly purchased home with his beautiful wife and their awesome dog.
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