They are the living connection to the war experience. For the National WWII Museum and its visitors, the WWII veterans who volunteer their time, sharing memories and insights, are golden.
But those who can still donate their time are dwindling in number as their celebrated generation gradually fades from the scene. Only one of every 16 Americans who served is still living.
“These people bring it to life,” said William Detweiler, the Museum’s consultant for military affairs. “They don’t brag about what they did. They’re the connection – their stories.”
The Museum still has 31 WWII veteran volunteers on its rolls, down from a high of roughly 100 soon after the institution opened in 2000. A good representation – 16 from the beloved 31 – came to the American Sector on Wednesday, December 4, to enjoy a tribute lunch with President & CEO Nick Mueller and others. (Two of our most well known veteran volunteers, Bert Stolier and Tom Blakey, were away at a Rotary Club speaking engagement.)
The luncheon crowd had a rousing good time. Then the elderly volunteers proudly lined up for a picture – and nearly brought the restaurant to a standstill, as onlookers grabbed cameras. One of them so moved, American Sector bartender Billy Vincent, said later, “The time to honor them is short.”
Standing in front of a George Rodrigue painting of two World War II icons, Dwight D. Eisenhower and New Orleans boat-builder Andrew Higgins, were, back row, left to right: Andrew Konnerth, Jimmy Dubuisson, Dutch Prager, Gene Geisert, Ross Gamble, Bob Wolf, Tommy Godchaux, Dan Cantor and Jimmy Fried. Those seated, left to right, were: C. Johnny Difatta, Lloyd Campo, Bill Cassady, John Rogers, Bowdre Mc Dowell, John Capretto and Jerry Gervais.
The Museum salutes these special volunteers and all they represent!