NEW ORLEANS, LA (November 11, 2010) – As part of Veterans Day events at The National World War II Museum today, local schoolchildren sat down with World War II vets to ask questions and listen to stories in the shadow of the Museum’s C-47. Twelve-year old Stefan Suazo, a self-professed World War II fanatic, was one of those students. When asked about the experience, his reaction was amazingly mature; “Soon students like me won’t have the chance to speak with WWII veterans. It’s a different perspective than anything I’ve read in books.”
Eyes wide with wonder, Suazo and more than 70 other fifth graders from Metairie Academy in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana listened to World War II veterans relay their stories of aerial dogfights, naval battles and joyous family reunions during the war that changed the world. Students also had the opportunity to meet real-life Rosie the Riveters, a Holocaust survivor, one of the first female Marines and some of the women who did their part for victory on the Home Front.
The meeting was part of the Museum’s new initiative “Talking to Living History” that introduces the country’s newest generations to members of its “greatest” one. It’s a concerted effort by the New Orleans-based institution to encourage youngsters to interact with WWII veterans, educating and enlightening a generation who may think WWII is only a series of encyclopedia entries on an iPad or fuzzy black and white news clips on YouTube.
“Families and school groups need to hear wartime stories from those who performed them,” says Dr. Gordon “Nick” Mueller, president and CEO of the Museum. “These citizen soldiers witnessed one of history’s most momentous events, and they have much to convey about courage, teamwork, service, and sacrifice, especially to young Americans. And there’s not much time left to listen.”
The sense of urgency is due to a grim calendar. Americans who actively participated in World War II are now in their 80s and 90s. War veterans are dying at the rate of 797 a day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. By the end of 2010, less than 2 million World War II veterans will remain of the 16 million who served.
“Not all veterans want to talk about their experiences,” says the Museum’s education director, Kenneth Hoffman, “but many do.” Tips to help teachers and families locate WWII veterans are available at the Museum website: www.nationalww2museum.org.
Veteran Tom Blakey landed and fought at Normandy as part of the 82nd Airborne and, as a Museum volunteer, shares his stories daily with visitors. “There are a lot of things in this Museum, but it’s not a Museum about things. It’s about the people and the stories of what we saw and did. It’s important to share those stories with future generations so they can learn from them and continue to pass them on after we are gone.”
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.