Memorial Day is not the same as Veterans’ Day. The somber difference—remembering versus honoring—offers the opportunity to reflect on sacrifice. We take time to reflect on the lives lost in all our nation’s wars.
For my generation, the war that had just ended before we were born affected most lives in one way or another. Sixteen million people served in the armed forces of the United States in World War II; about half a million survive, with 362 on average dying daily.
The efforts of one young man to preserve the stories of those who remember, first hand, the battles of World War II inspire us to do more. A national museum in New Orleans does much, of course, and gets good press. But Andy Fancher has taken the project of preservation to heart. He has a YouTube channel, and he works passionately to record the stories of these survivors before they pass on. Interviewed for NBC Nightly News, he shared one of his videos and talked about the urgency of his mission. He also noted that five of his interviewees had died since he met them, one only 15 days after recording with Andy. Happily, Andy has agreed to two events in Duncanville, the first an evening meeting of the Friends of the Duncanville Library on July 10, at 7:00 p.m., the second a community event on September 15, 2:00-4:00 p.m. The second event, also at the library, will include displays, interactive attractions for children, a flag ceremony (we hope), and a presentation by Andy Fancher. Please come! [Five years: that’s a long time. The link to Andy’s YouTube channel still works. No longer a high schooler, he’s now Andrew Pierce Fancher and a UNT grad. Here is his tv bio! Good work, Andy. We knew you when…]
Connections are important on a day like today, and hopes. The oldest Civil War veteran did not die until 1956, at age 106. Albert Woolson fought for the Republic (a different way of saying the North). The oldest WWII veterans, worldwide, are older still. The oldest man in America, Richard Overton, served in the Army; he is 112 and lives in Austin. Digitized recordings of his interview with Katherine Cranford for the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress are available here. Overton arrived at Pearl Harbor with his segregated unit just after the Japanese attacked. [This information is still good, though Mr. Overton died in December 2018 at age 112. That’s remarkable. It was good to learn about him.]
So today, I’m supporting Richard Overton’s GoFundMe account. [While the link exists, and you can see that over $454k were donated, you can’t donate now, of course.] It wasn’t my intention when I started today’s piece, but it seems appropriate. He was born the same year as my father, you see, and today makes me cry a bit. I’ll help out Andy Fancher too, of course. Perhaps you can donate to one of these as well. I won’t close wishing this day happy, as this Navy SEAL admonishes me not to do. People said much the same a couple of years ago. So, remember. Act. Be quiet for a minute. And hope for peace. [These links still work, too. There are still lessons and history to learn.]