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Remembering our POW/MIAs

by SofS Staff - September 23, 2007

Remarks by our youth representative at the Air Force Memorial on POW/MIA Day

Kartik speaks at the Air Force Memorial,
overlooking Washington, D.C

On Friday, September 21, 2007, Stories of Service helped mark National POW/MIA Day at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. This occasion marked the very first time that the POW/MIA flag was raised over the new memorial.

Kartik Venkatraman, a Stories of Service youth producer from California was one of the featured speakers at the ceremony.  A contingent of our Washington, D.C. youth producers was also present to pay their respects.

Kartiks remarks are as follows:

"I’d like to tell you about my friend Rusty Lewis. I met Rusty through my involvement in the Stories of Service program. Our program teaches young people, like myself, to produce short videos in which veterans and others who serve have the opportunity to tell their personal stories.

"Rusty is a vibrant, eighty year old veteran of World War II who served as a B-17 Pilot with the 379th Bomber Group in Europe. In 1944, he was shot down over Heidelstadt, and was held in Stalag I in Germany until the end of the war.

"Rusty loves to talk and when I was working with him, he described his experiences as a POW so vividly that I felt I was there. Describing the end of 1944, he told me, 'That winter was severe, and I lost 40 pounds, but I never gave up hope. Food was four thin slices of bread and a bowl of soup per day. Stalag I had 9,000 prisoners, and we lived with 24 men to a small room with slats for beds 3 decks high.' He also told me that during the war '58,000 8th Air Force crew members died and 28,000 were made POW’s.'

"You can see Rusty’s video, titled “Don’t Fence Me In” as well as other POW stories on the Internet at [Click here to see Rusty's video]

"I know that Rusty has difficult memories of his time as a POW. But his experiences do not inhibit his lifestyle today. Once, when I asked him if I could go over to his house, he told me it would have to be in the afternoon, because he still plays softball three times a week. In fact, when Rusty was in high school, Ira Blue declared that he would be the next Bob Feller, and he received a full scholarship, 54 dollars per semester, to Berkeley.

"Rusty’s baseball career was cut short by World War II. Though he laments that he will never know if he would have made it to the Major Leagues, I am grateful that he served our country and risked his life for our freedom. It is people like Rusty, many of you sitting in front of me today, and all those who have served our nation, who deserve the fame that currently belongs to sports stars and celebrities.

"Before I close today, I would like to repeat Rusty's motto for life, what he calls the "Triple A": Attitude -- be positive; Adaptability--adapt to difficult conditions; and Administration--be a good leader and do not take credit for you subordinate's merits. Be honest and run your life well.

"It is these values that helped him get through his experiences as a POW, and that continue to give him strength today.

"Rusty was fortunate, he survived his ordeal and returned home to his country and family. Many others did not. I think that it is important that young people today help honor those who served, those who never made it home, and the families they left behind.

"Some of my fellow youth producers from Stories of Service are here today. In fact, after this ceremony we are going to work with some veterans out at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

"I hope you will encourage other young people that you know to find Rustys in their own communities, to preserve these stories, and to honor the legacy of those who served and sacrificed."

Related Stories (Videos)

Don't Fence Me In

Rusty remembers his experiences as a POW in Stalag 1, in Germany

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