Post by Category : Speakers’ Bureau

A New Milestone – 334 Oral Histories Completed

Rusty Edmister

On June 15th, 2017, a new day began for Rusty Edmister of Chapel Hill VFW Post 9100.  It was a day of reflection in that on the day prior Rusty had completed another Oral History of a veteran–his 334th interview.  No, that number is correct–334 individual interviews of service men and women.

 

With a miniature video camera, several extra tapes and a spare battery, he had headed off on June 14th to meet with a veteran.  Rusty was on a quest.  He often speaks of the many men and women he has met all over North Carolina and surrounding areas.  Each has a unique story to tell.  A story of their days, weeks, months, and maybe even years of military service.  

 

He may receive a lead from a family member, another veteran, or through an encounter at a coffee shop, restaurant, civic event, or picnic.  Veterans are everywhere, but not all of them wear a distinctive military or service ball cap, jacket, or mark their car with an “I’ve Served” bumper sticker.  Wherever they are, Rusty is driven to meet them and tell them his story. 

 

It’s the story of a retired IBM employee who served himself in the military.  He had heard of a North Carolina Archives project to record oral histories and joined in that effort.  He worked on it for more than a year and over 100 interviews.  Now he continues his recordings, much like the fictional Songcatcher of North Carolina who scoured the mountains and hollers of North Carolina in a quest to record mountain music.  The difference with Rusty is that his quest is very real and extremely important.  It is a race against time and the impending loss of lives of our remaining World War II and Korean War veterans.

 

Each has a story to tell that will disappear with their passing.  He “has to” capture their stories while there is time.  Many children of those who served never really talk to their mother, father, sister or brother.  Within the veteran there is a story, however slight, about their experiences.  It may be about the time they were drafted and sent off to one of the hundreds of training centers, stations, and camps that dotted these United States of America.  It might be the story of a volunteer that was rejected due to a medical condition before the war, but who was accepted once the draft call had his name on the local Draft Board’s list.  Or, maybe, the story of a sailor who was sent off to a far away island to build an airfield or port in time to support arriving United States Marines working their way towards Japan.  There are lots and lots of unrecorded stories.  

 

But there is a worse story.  It is the story of a son or grandchild who realizes that Pops, Gramps, Uncle Bill, or Aunt Stella passed away.  They’ll be sitting on a porch, at a beach, be in school or at home, when the phone rings or they get a FaceBook or Twitter alert.  Time does not wait and Rusty, as well as his fellow veterans, have heard the sorrowful stories of an opportunity unfulfilled. This is what drives Rusty and other veterans to record oral histories.  Time will not wait.  It’s time to capture another story.

 

Our Post is very proud to have Rusty Edmister as a member.  He epitomizes the drive and dedication former servicemen or women have to make a difference in their community.  We hope that you will contact Rusty Edmister and let him know that you know of a veteran with a story to tell.  Rusty will drive most anywhere in the state (and neighboring states, too) to conduct the interview.  He will also give the veteran multiple copies of the interview on DVDs (one for the veteran and each of his or her family members), and will ensure a copy is placed in a historical reference library or archive.  

 

The cost?  Nothing.  Not a penny.  Rusty receives his reward in knowing that he made a difference and that he was able to save a little bit of the history of one who served his Country.  You can email Rusty by clicking here.

Inspired by Youth

I was recently reminded of an earlier story wherein a high school student inspired  our post to be more active in our community.  That one student created a lot of enthusiasm among the members.  Here we were thinking that we were leading the way to patriotism when the student was out in front of us!

 

This past month we came in contact with a young lady in our community that inquired about local events commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.  She contacted our post because of our speakers bureau.  “Are local veterans involved in a commemorative ceremony?” she asked.  We knew of nothing to remember Auschwitz in January.

 

Here was a young lady asking the infamous second question, “Why not?”  We helped her get in contact with the right people, provided information on what could be done, and promised to help advertise an event, if it became a reality.  We also promised to help get some local veterans to join in. 

 

How did it go?  Was she successful?  It went very well.  She managed to work with the Chapel Hill Holocaust Speakers Bureau (it has a new name now (learn more)) and others to make it happen and on January 26th, 2015, Chapel Hill remembered the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz at The Cedars Retirement Community in Meadowmont.   Read story

 

VFW Chapel Hill Post 9100 and the American Legion of Chapel Hill provided veterans.  Robert Patton’s wife, Helen, attended with her sister Pat McDonald.  Robert’s son drove them.  Jim Mackorell also attended and shared his post war stories of visiting concentration camps in Germany.  Edward Gill and his wife also attended and brought along a special guest on behalf of the American Legion. There were several other local veterans from both posts.

 

The American Legion recently lost a member, Richard Romano.  At a memorial service for him, we met a friend of his and a survivor of Auschwitz, Rebecca Hauser.  Rebecca and her daughter, Bonnie, also attended.

 

Rebecca was able to honor her lost family and villagers by lighting a candle of remembrance.  As we watched Rebecca light the candle, we could see the impact the candle lighting had on her.  It was a blessing, a blessing to be able to bring their story, the story of her Greek village to light again. 

 

One person, through a single unselfish act, had affected the lives of many in our community.  For her efforts, our post salutes Ms. Amanda Garfinkle.  Her drive and perseverance made the Auschwitz commemorative event a very special event for three local holocaust survivors.

  

Postscript….

 

Amanda enters Auschwitz
Amanda enters Auschwitz

The 70th  anniversary of Auschwitz’ liberation has special meaning for Amanda. 

 

Amanda visited Europe last Fall.  Her journey took her near Auschwitz and she decided to make a pilgrimage.   

 

It was time for her to walk where thousands perished.  So, she bought a train ticket and made the five to six hour train trip to Auschwitz.  She had an interest in the holocaust while growing up and often thought about how fortunate she was that her family left that part of the world when they did.  If not, she might have been one of the millions of unborn souls that were to be the descendents of those killed.

 

Her grandfathers both served during World War II.  One, Aaron Schultz, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an armourer in the U.S. 389th Group, 8th Air Force.  He devised a modification to bomb bay doors that prevented the locking pins from engaging unless the bomb door creep was excessive.  The modification was made to all B-24 Liberators in the 389th Group in March 1944 and was then approved for all 8th Air Force B-24’s.  He was awarded the Bronze Star.

 

 

 

– Lee Heavlin

 

Getting Involved by Speaking Out

Photo by Lauralee H Long
Photo by Lauralee H Long

We are very fortunate to have a number of veterans available to speak at local groups.  And, because we have speakers, we get lots of requests.

 

This is a community service project that started about eight years ago.  A local high school student asked about veterans activities in Chapel Hill.  He wondered, “Where are  the veterans?”  He knew we were in town, but, at that time, there was little seen or heard from them.  

 

We first chalked it up to lack of media coverage, but we knew better.  We realized that we just were not visible enough.  Our members were doing things “quietly.”  We had a great product and great members, but only we new it.  That all changed in on October 14, 2005, when our Post blog newsletter and website went live

 

In December we reported the the loss of Marty Lewenstein.  He was our first real post news story.  Marty was the quiet vet that did a lot in our town.  At the post he was the guy who went after the meals for the post meeting.  During World War II, however, he was flying B-17’s in Europe out of Italy. Here is what we reported,

 

  • This month we lost a quiet friend and patriot. Comrade Martin Lewenstein lost his battle with health issues. He served his country well, both in war and in peace.
  • Flying out of Italy, Martin survived fifty combat missions over Europe. He had the hazardous gunner position in a B-17 bomber. None of his group’s original B-17’s made it through the war. His group also had an 88% loss rate! You might say that Martin had one of his Lord’s angels riding along with him.  Read the rest of the story

 

We soon learned that there were lots of similar stories to share and a demand for them.  Our telephone frequently rings with a request for a speaker and we can now provide a broad selection of topic speakers.

 

No, we don’t just talk about war.  We talk about our memories, our fears, what we think about current events, and how we provide services to members, their families and our community. 

You can find a list of current speakers on this site.  Click here

 

We have come a long way since October 2005.  Our website is vibrant and is a “go to” place for information for veterans,  local media, schools, and  groups.  And, in 2011 we were the the winner of a national award from The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.  We won First Place 2011 VFW National Publications Contest, Post Publications (Small) and were presented the award (plaque) at the 2011 Department of North Carolina State Convention.  We also won the state level award.  How did we do it?  Well, besides good writing, our VFW members are very active and busy.  We have lots to write and talk about.  

 

Why not give us a call?  Better yet, send us an e-mail detailing your needs, date and time desired, and contact information.  We’ll do the rest.  Contact us

 

Auschwitz 70 Years Later

A gathering of over 30 people remembered the Holocaust and the liberation of Auschwitz on January 26 at The Cedars of Chapel Hill retirement community.  Three survivors of Auschwitz were present.

 

Seventy years ago Allied Forces entered Auschwitz and the surrounding camps.  This included Mauthausen concentration camp where Robert Patton, then a sergeant in George Patton’s Third Army, was part of the liberating force.  Robert shared his stories, returned to Europe several times, and participated as a speaker for the Chapel Hill Holocaust Speakers Bureau.  We lost Robert last April, but his wife, Helen was able to attend this event.

 

Rebecca Hauser
Rebecca Hauser

Rebecca Hauser joined us at the ceremony and lit a candle in remembrance of her family and village.  Rebecca, a Greek, was just 20 years old when her village was assembled and sent to Auschwitz.  From her village, only about 100 survived.  Over 45,000 Greeks were sent to Auschwitz.  Learn more

 

 

Survivors are now in their 90’s and we are losing them daily.  Soon, only their stories, recollections, and mementos will remain.  Their stories are recorded in books, in libraries, on film, and on video, but it is the remembrance stories that are so important.

 

Our Bible was first passed by the spoken word from generation to generation.  Our stories were passed down from father to son and repeated countless times before it became the written word.

 

We gather each Sunday to recall the stories that are the Bible with readings from the Torah or Holy Scripture.  So, too, were we able to hear this night a riveting story as told by a granddaughter.  It was the story of her mother and her mother’s mother.

 

Deborah Long shared the story of her mother hiding from the Germans during a roundup of Jews.  Deborah read from the pages of her mother’s diary. 

 

She told the story of a young girl who was well hidden and evaded capture, but as she came out of hiding, her mother was gone.  Her mother was heading to the railway to board a train, destination unknown.

 

As we listened to Deborah read from the diary, we felt the anguish of a parent separated from a child.  We have all experienced the temporary loss of a child, only to rejoice in finding them safe.  In her case, she was far from safe.  Her story was going to be so much more than anything we could imagine.

 

The story continued with the young girl following the Jews heading to the railway.  She found and pleaded to an officer to help her find her mother.  She wanted to be with her.  It was where she would be safe in her arms.

 

She could have safely escaped by just being quiet and getting away—now while there was still hope. 

 

Voitair 40 and 8 car
40 and 8 boxcar

After much commotion and pleading, an officer took her with him as he  started to bang on a railcars.  We veterans know them as a French 40 and 8 boxcar.  They held forty people or eight horses and were the transport for World War I doughboys heading to the front lines.  This time they were packed with far more people.

 

From the very first car came a voice answering back with the name of the mother.  She was there!  Mother and child were united.  She wanted to be with her mother and begged  her mother to just tell them to let them go.  The mother told the little girl that maybe she could go, but mother had to stay as they would not let her leave the railcar.

 

Mother and daughter were as one and they endured the long trip to an unknown in each others arms.  Arriving in Auschwitz, men were put into one line, older mothers into another, young women in another, and then there were the children.  Sick, faint, tired, strong, all were sorted.  The girls were separated from her mother.  

 

They led her mother to another line.  Mother said, “I am weak and they are giving me a ride to the next stop.”  You know the rest.  They were separated and the mother eventually found the only way out of Auschwitz, “up through the chimneys.”

 

As Robert Patton would often say, “We can’t let them be forgotten.”  That is one thing we will not do.  You are encouraged to attend local events and memorials of The Holocaust.  Find out more and see upcoming events.

 

To learn more about the Shoah (The Holocaust), click here.

Hendricks at Exchange Club

Post Commander Lewis Hendricks recently visited the Hillsborough Exchange Club.  We were asked to provide a speaker to share their thoughts and experiences of Iraq.

 

Hendricks Exchange Club
Commander Hendricks prepares for his talk.

Commander Hendricks’ topic was Carolina on My Mind.  He share his experiences before going overseas, the experiences of his spouse and children, his mid-tour visit home, and the final months of his tour.  Carolina was always on his mind.  Lewis took some photos of the family and compiled a video that was a composite of life in Iraq and at home.  

 

The Exchange Club had about 30 members in attendance and seemed in awe as they watched the video.  It brought the conflict home and many remembered their own experiences as a family member or serviceman.  Commander Hendricks held an open mike questions and answer session.  Lots of interesting questions came up and his frank, honest, and sincere impressions were very welcome.

 

We made new friends at the Exchange Club.  We shared experiences and compared our post to the club.  Our challenges were much the same as were our goals.  The Exchange Club Covenant of Service says it all:

 

Accepting the divine privilege of single and collective responsibility as life’s
Noblest gift, I covenant with my fellow Exchangites:
To consecrate my best energies to the uplifting of Social, Religious, Political and
Business ideals;
To discharge the debt I owe to those of high and low estate who have served and
sacrificed that the heritage of American citizenship might be mine;
To honor and respect law, to serve my fellowmen, and to uphold the ideals and
institutions of my Country;
To implant the life‐giving, society‐building spirit of Service and Comradeship in
my social and business relationships;
To serve in Unity with those seeking better conditions, better understandings,
and greater opportunities for all.

 

The Hillsborough Exchange Club has some very interesting accomplishments.  They include a 20 acre park area near downtown, they were the first Hillsborough Town Park, they provide space for scouting and DMV training, and are very active in the community with community service projects.  We appreciated the invitation to speak and to learn more about our local civilian non-profit groups.

 

If you need a speaker for your event, let us know.  Just check our Speakers’ Bureau page for details.

Final Muster Set for The Fighting Fourth

Major Bud Hampton of the Fighting Fourth Division
Major Bud Hampton of the Fighting Fourth Division

On the 70th Anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, the Fourth Marine Division Association (all Iwo Jima survivors) will have its final muster at Camp Le June, NC (Aug. 3 – 8) 2015. The Fighting Fourth‘s final ceremony will be open to the public.

 

This will be a major news media event which will include the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, the silent drill team, drum and bugle corps, etc.

The Fourth Division Association has started a fund drive to raise funds for the rental of handicapped equipped tour buses, wheel chairs, a ladies breakfast, and some tour attractions including some travel funds for members who cannot afford the trip.  Want to donate?  Please visit this link and look for the donate option in the top right corner of the page.  Click here

 

Major Bud Hampton, USMC (Ret.) of Chapel Hill Post 9100 and a member of the Fighting Fourth, is a member of the association.

 

The association anticipates a larger turnout than usual, as this is the association’s final muster. A message will also be posted in the Fighting Fourth newsletter to help get the word out. These Marines are in their 90’s and it would be fitting to see them retire the colors with all the pomp and ceremony they well deserve as they are the of Marines of greatest generation.

 

The Fighting Fourth last met in Charleston, SC.  Here are photos of that event

 

and still more photos with Charleston sights.

 

Story updated Oct 1, 2014

 

 

UNC-Chapel Hill Theater Project Needs Veterans

silhoulettes of serviceWe receive a number of requests for assistance with projects where those who served in the military are essential to the story. This month we received a request for assistance with a theater project in development at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Dramatic Art.  Can you assist?

 

The students want to interview members of  VFW Post 9100 for their theater project.  Veterans will be intereviewd and asked two primary questions:

 

  1. Why did you choose to serve your country? and
  2. What sacrifices does it take to fulfill your commitment?

 

The requested interviews will be recorded, transcribed and ultimately created into a documentary theatre piece entitled Silhouettes of Service (SOS.) SOS is a dual-purposed project I am developing as an MFA graduate student of UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program (PATP). During classes this fall, under the mentorship of Ray Dooley (http://

drama.unc.edu/ray-dooley/) the head of PATP, SOS will serve as an educational resource for a character study of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.

 

Secondly the interviews will be arranged into a solo documentary theatre piece which that Gregory DeCandia will perform under the direction of former medic and commissioned infantry officer Stephan Wolfert, Founding Artistic Director of the Veterans Center of the Performing Arts (govcpa.com).  SOS’s proposed public performance will occur spring 2015 at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Center of Dramatic Art.
Interviews will be scheduled in 40-minute intervals and conducted by colleague Jeffrey Goldberg and Gregory DeCandia.  Mr. Goldberg is traveling from Los Angeles to Durham on August 20th and departing September 9th. The fall class schedule at UNC during these dates would allow them to conduct interviews at the following times:

 

  • Sunday (8/24, 8/31, 9/7), Monday (8/25, 9/1, 9/8): Anytime
  • Wednesday (8/27, 9/3), Saturday (8/23, 8/30, 9/6): 3:00 pm-10:30 pm
  • Tuesday (8/26, 9/2), Thursday (8/21, 8/28), Friday (8/22, 8/29): 4:30 pm-10:30 pm

 

All participants will be required to to complete detailed request to interview the members of the VFW Post 9100.  

Download (PDF, 514KB)


If you have questions or need any additional information, visit their website: silhouettesofservice.com

 

You can also contact Gregory DeCandia, PlayMakers Rep. Co. Member, UNC PATP Graduate Candidate ’16. Email is: decandia@live.unc.edu or visit gregorydecandia.com​  Call him at 209-877-SHOW (7469)

The State of Iraq

Welcome to Iraq: Courtesy BROThe post gets inquiries all the time from media sources.  They are interested in our community events, memorial services, programs, and in our personal opinion.
Recently we were asked about the availability of local recent conflict veterans to speak on WUNC Radio as part of an upcoming program on The State of Iraq.  Lewis Hendricks, our Post Commander, participated and here is a link to the half-hour show.  Below is the link to the story and the audio.

The State Of Iraq

Islamic militants are slowly gaining more control of Iraq. The group known as the Islamic State is asserting its will in the northern part of the country.
You, too, can participate in response to media requests.  Just volunteer for our Post Speakers’ Bureau.  Learn more about the speakers’ bureau by visiting their web page.

A Soldier Remembers

Mark in France
Click on picture for more photos

Mark Sumner has returned home from a return visit to France to walk along the beaches of Normandy and to return to Bastogne, the site of the Battle of the Bulge.  It was the trip of a lifetime that was 70 years in the making.

You are invited to share in his story and the story of the East Chapel Hill High students and their mentor, Robin McMahon, at a special event on Thursday, June 26th, at the Seymour Center on Homestead Road, Chapel Hill.  The event is from 5 – 7:30 pm.  There will be snacks for everyone as you see a presentation on their trip.  Learn more

This project was a monumental undertaking.  The students raised $10,000 in just six months to take Mark and fellow veteran Ed Chappell (along with their spouses) back to France to attend the 70th and final official commemoration of D-Day at Normandy.  What an accomplishment.

Visit the students’ project website, NC to Normandy, by clicking here.

 

Make a Difference in Our Community

Father and Son with Poppies
Rain or shine, we meet and greet.

What do we do to serve our community as a veteran?  How can we make a difference?  The answer is simple, serve others where needed.  You may be the only veteran someone comes in contact with as they search for help for help.  They may be searching for assistance or information on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Flag Day, funeral honors, a school class event, a school project to recognize or honor veterans.  Are you ready to help?

C. V. Cummings Chapel Hill Post 9100 is ready.  Our veterans are out and about making a difference.  We are in the schools to talk to students, be honored, or to honor a teacher.  We don’t have a post home, but we are very busy serving others in Orange County and neighboring areas.  We know how to say, “Yes, we can.”

Here is just one example of post involvement by one member, Edward Gill.  It is the result of “Yes, we can.”  It is the story of Dachau Ashes.  Read Story