It’s not always easy getting youngsters to show interest in historical happenings and the majority of millennials today are somewhat out of touch with events that happened long before their time when the world was a much different place. But there is one 20-year-old who is so interested in World War II veterans that he has taken it upon himself to seek out and interview the still living vets today, hoping to shed some light on their stories and offer ways that the rest of the nation can help them.
Rishi Sharma has always been interested in history and when he was a child he dreamed of being a Marine when he grew up. While Sharma never went on to enlist in military service, he has embarked on another type of service, a project called “Heroes of the Second World War.”
Fascinated by the stories that can still be told today, Sharma set out to interview all the living World War II vets, and he’s realizing that these interviews are teaching him more than he imagined. So far, Sharma has interviewed 870 vets and each meeting has proved to be different, however; they are all similar in that they are away for the veteran to release some of the burdens that they’ve been carrying around for decades.
“The only reason I am alive today is because of these heroic men,” he wrote on the project’s website. “They went in as ordinary boys in extraordinary circumstances which churned them out as men.”
World War II vets are well-known for being silent when it comes to their time overseas, but Sharma has broken down a lot of barriers and gotten them to release the stories that they’ve been holding in for so long.
“I’m trying to be an outlet for them to talk about it in a censor-free environment to get their thoughts across before they’re gone,” he said. “They don’t talk to their families, because they don’t want to burden them with the horror of they’ve seen or done.”
Sharma has already visited 45 states and is heading to Canada next. He feels that the stories are cathartic and a way for the vets to share them before they pass away.
“Because it’s very lonely when you’re the only person with these thoughts in their head,” he added.
Considering World War II is the deadliest war in history, there have been many documentaries made on the subject, however; none of them show the truth the way that the veterans are able to tell it from their own personal experiences. Sharma has learned that the war was even more horrific than any documentary has been able to show.
“War is two things: it’s killing people and it’s seeing your friends killed,” said Sharma, who is hoping that his mission will prevent future wars from happening. “The mission is to highlight the reality of war and war is combat. People need to know how bad it was so that we don’t be so hasty when we make decisions in the future.”
We know we’ll be watching once this remarkable young man’s project is finished. Will you?