US Teenager’s Noble Mission To Speak To Every War Veteran and Record Their Stories

Rishi Sharma is on a mission. He wants to meet all the surviving World War II veterans and record their stories.

He started “Heroes of the Second World War” as a nonprofit organization. It enlists a nationwide network of volunteers to record interviews with veterans. It also encourages the volunteers to make friends with the veterans.

Having just finished high school, Sharma has put off college in order to interview at least one veteran a day. So far, all of his interviews have been in California and Oregon.

The problem he faces is that, even if he can afford the airfare to fly to meet these veterans, he is not old enough to rent a car when he gets there. A GoFundMe project has raised $3,000 for his travel expenses.

Sharma is moved by a sense of guilt that veterans are dying without being properly thanked for their service. Many are widowed or alone in a senior home.

According to the Veteran’s Administration, 492 WWII veterans die every day. There are 855,070 still alive out of the 16 million who served, according to the National World War II Museum.

Sharma realized he could still meet many of the ex-soldiers after he read Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose. He began visiting GIs at a local senior home. Sometimes he would record the conversation. Before long, he was making daily visits to nursing homes, American Legion posts and cold calls.

Last year he decided to go full time and set up the organization and putting his future on hold.

“It’s now at a point where my best friends are 99, 94 and 93,” Sharma said by phone recently from Oregon.

He has interviewed 120 veterans. The oldest was 100 years old, and the youngest was 91.

He uses a camera which records everything. The conversation usually lasts a few hours.

He always takes a picture of the veterans holding a wartime photo and sends them a DVD of the conversation.

He does not charge the veterans anything, and no one watches the recording before the DVD is sent, Tribune Star reported.

He is looking to expand the organization to people who will “adopt” a veteran – treating them to meals or enjoying social activities with them.

“These men are my kindred spirits as they are the only people who I truly enjoy talking to and learning from for hours on end,” Sharma said.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE