I shared with you earlier about doing a book project with Korean veterans and student partners. We started the group yesterday.
Twelve Korean veterans, each matched with a student partner, began a two-month process of writing individual stories, which will be collected into one book. Hesitant veterans turned into willing participants as the pairs started their dialogues. Pictures were scanned, and a large Korean keepsake scarf was photographed for inclusion in the book. The stories will vary as much as the storytellers themselves.One veteran played trumpet in an army band for President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Two-plus years later, as a member of a navy band, he played trumpet for President Kennedy’s funeral. I look forward to the details that will enhance these unusual, but related, events.
Another writer-participant served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. That’s enough story in itself, but add to the venture that he also was held prisoner-of-war during World War II, and for an even longer time, prisoner-of-war in Korea.
A third story I look forward to hearing is from a veteran who attended cryptographic school in Massachusetts after training at a teletype school stateside. I wonder what he decoded, where, and when.
Students were well prepared by their teacher and came to this first session with an attitude of respect and proactivity. They listened, took notes, and asked questions. Veterans sensed their sincere interest and responded with details and more memories. Picture albums provided photographs to be included in the collective book, and memorabilia will be photographed and incorporated into the book as well.
Each of the twelve authors and their partners meet weekly to discuss, add to, edit, and finalize their stories. The accounts, after being collected into one book, will be published and sold to libraries, museums, gift shops, and retail outlets. We will do presentations, signings, and readings throughout the Smoky Valley area.
One blessing of these projects between senior citizens and school students—this is my fifth—is the preservation of these histories that go unknown until somebody asks. Veterans, with a little encouragement, recall, with amazement, experiences that happened so long ago. But the really, really special part of doing this, for me, is the relationship that develops between each veteran and his student-partner. Those associations began yesterday.
As Andy Rooney said, “The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” I think our student-partners would agree after only one session with their veteran-partners. What a privilege for all of us.