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"It is remarkable to see how each generation comes away with an enriched understanding of the other"

by Peter Radonich - March 11, 2008

Peter shares his thoughts on his Stories of Service experiences

Peter mentors Rusty Lewis, a first-time Storyteller

Some years ago, I attended a gathering of veterans to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of thebattle for Okinawa. For the first time, I fully realized what a monumental battle it was and the deep and lasting impact it had on all of us who were fortunate enough to have survived the final, and by some accounts, the bloodiest and costliest battle of the war. I was also struck by how extraordinary it was that four of my six brothers-in-law, who also served in WWII, also fought on Okinawa, and returned home safely.

Unfortunately, these men were now dying off in their seventies, leaving little or no record of their wartime experiences, even though all of them spent nearly five years in uniform during WWII. I began to gather my random writings and mementos and started writing a memoir of my days as a combat infantryman in the hope that by documenting my Okinawa experience, Imight help preserve their stories as well.

In 2000, I learned about the Stories of Service program, and felt that this would be an excellent vehicle for recording and preserving my modest contribution to world history and those of my in-laws. I must say this was a wonderful decision. For me, participating in Stories of Service has been a delightful experience, largely because it has provided me with the opportunity to work with such bright dedicated young boys and girls who use the “magic” of digital technology to help us share our memories of long ago. I have been so pleased with the program that I have stayed on as a story mentor, offering whatever support I can to other veterans to help introduce them to the program and helping support the youth leaders who run the workshops.

Stories of Service benefits the elderly, the veterans’ families, and the youth who learn so much about the history of their country and the people who live in their community. It is really remarkable to see how the generations interact with one another, and how each comes away with an enriched understanding of the other. These youngsters are using the power of digital technology to share our stories with a global audience, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In a way, they are making us immortal.

An incident a few months ago brought this home to me in a very personal way when I received a phone call from a young man in Iowa who had come across my story while surfing the Internet looking for information about the Army infantry company with which his grandfather was serving when he was killed on Okinawa. I was in that company. I knew his grandfather and was within one hundred yards of him when he and four others were killed. I recall the day very well. The young man was extremely moved and pleased that he was able to share my first hand account with his ailing father who was only two months old when his father lost his life in service to his country more than sixty years ago…

So, as you can see, Stories of Service is building bridges between the generations and keeping thememory of our veterans alive. I hope that you will do what you can to help spread the word about Stories of Service so that hopefully others across America will be inspired to follow our example.

Peter Radonich
Co-Chair, Stories of Service California

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