Veterans Day: Memories worth preserving

Johnson City Press • Nov 10, 2019 at 6:30 AM

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”

Homer Pease did not settle for a life of ease. At only 13 years old in 1942, the Johnson City youngster managed to join the Marine Corps to fight in World War II.

After basic training and airborne paratrooper school, Pease jumped into France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He was wounded but later rejoined his unit to fight in Ardennes Forest, the Battle of the Bulge and at Berchtesgaden. When we was wounded a second time, military authorities learned his real age and sent him home. At 16, he tried again, only to be sent home again from Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

After graduating from Science Hill High School, Pease joined the Army National Guard. In 1965, he volunteered to be a military adviser in Vietnam and completed the U.S. Army Ranger course. On Nov. 19, 1966, Maj. Homer Pease was killed in action while leading a ground combat operation.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe made sure Pease’s name would be remembered. On Dec. 21, President Donald Trump signed Roe’s bill naming Johnson City’s East Main Street post office in Pease’s honor.

Other names worth remembering are leaving us at rate of 294 per day. They are the veterans who served this country through the 20th century’s darkest challenge. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that of the 16.1 million who served in World War II, about 389,000 were living in 2019 — down from 558,000 two years ago. In Tennessee, the number was fewer than 6,900. Now, in their late 80s and 90s, many of those still with us hold more history in their minds than any book could ever contain. With each death, this nation loses a bit of its essential experience.

Our nation has been far too lax in recording our real history. Beyond the strategies, decisions, battles and turning points are the personal stories of those who lived through such events as World War II.

The Library of Congress, though, has an initiative to change that. The Veterans History Project preserves firsthand remembrances of U.S. military veterans from World War I through more recent conflicts. The goal is for future generations to hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

Volunteers and organizations can record audio or video interviews of veterans and submit them to the project. Veterans History Project also accepts memoirs and collections of original photographs, letters, diaries, maps and other historical documents from veterans.

You can learn how to help preserve the accounts of the veterans in your life by visiting the project’s website at www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home. You can also contact Roe’s office at 423-247-8161.

Monday is Veterans Day, and we can think of no better way to honor the occasion than by joining the effort to preserve history.