Veterans Day Remembrances

Veterans History Project with Chris, a veteran, and Roy

Thank you for your service! This was a phrase I heard often from my Veterans History Project volunteer partner and World War II veteran Roy Abrams as he thanked every person we interviewed together. Roy helped me with the project from 2008-2019, finding “his purpose” as he called it in his later years to honor his fellow military brethren by helping them share their personal military service stories and having their stories preserved by the Library of Congress.

Veterans History Project

The Clermont County Public Library partners with the Library of Congress to digitally record in-person interviews with local veterans to collect first-hand accounts about their personal military experience.

Read more about the Veterans History Project.

Meeting Roy

I met Roy through the project in 2008 at the Williamsburg Branch. He came dressed in his Army uniform, proud that he could still wear it after more than 60 years! He did the interview with the jacket on the whole time.

Roy gets involved

Roy was so impressed with the project that he immediately wanted to be involved. Roy was our best recruiter and a proud cheerleader for the program. He helped with 105 interviews during his volunteer time with me. Roy was in his 80s when we met and he retired at almost 93! He was proud to say that one!

Roy was one who loved what the project meant. He always told veterans that this was for their current and future family members to watch to understand what they did for our country.

Roy was always telling me tricks to get veterans talking more: ask about their family, or old equipment that was used in the service or light-hearted topics that get them to open up. It helped that Roy was a veteran. I am not a veteran so his presence often put the veterans at ease.

Chris’s involvement with the Veterans History Project

I became involved in the project in 2005 after hearing stories about my grandfather and his service. My grandfather passed away in 2004. It was only after his death that I heard stories about what he did and where he served during World War II, stories he never shared with me. Grandpa Shearer always said he was just a cook. I heard from grandma and my uncle that he survived being in the Atlantic Ocean after his convoy ship was torpedoed on the trip to England in 1943 and he went overboard. He eventually landed at Normandy after the initial push in mid-June and later took part in the Battle of the Bulge under the 3rd Army and General George Patton. I wanted to help by giving veterans the opportunity to share their own stories.

Remembering veterans’ stories

Thinking back, I have a lot of memories of the stories shared. Veterans talked about the excitement, dramatic emotions, the guilt associated with living and why, cathartic emotions, and love for country above all else. I’ve heard too many stories to remember everything but a few do stand out.

  • Navy WAVE veteran Jackie Tucker singing the Navy Wave fight song.
  • Army Air Corpsmen Frank Buschmeier getting shelled in his B-29 and telling me about meeting the writers for an HBO military mini-series starring Tom Hanks.
  • Army veteran Joe Lunsford being a POW in Germany.
  • Brad Gantz, an Army veteran who served in the same mountainous area in Afghanistan where the Lone Survivor book/movie event occurred.
  • Army Engineer Charles Bailey who had the unfortunate pleasure of having to tell me his story twice as I had a microphone issue.
  • Joe Whitt, a Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, who from the deck of the USS San Francisco fired his rifle at Japanese Zeros overhead.
  • Army veteran Bill Shipley who found a wrecked vehicle with a dying German military soldier (a boy) as he called him inside.

And of course Roy! Roy was an Army Engineer, like my grandfather, and he shared how Truman’s decision to bomb Japan saved his life. Roy believed he would have been sent with many others to attack Tokyo.

Roy’s importance

Roy passed in February 2021 at 94 years old. Some of my favorite interviews were with him. I appreciate his friendship, spending time with him and the veterans, and honoring their service through the Veterans History Project.

I also saw how these interviews helped families better understand what their loved ones went through, especially for those who rarely talked about their service. The Veterans History Project is about veterans sharing their stories with their families and the country – as well as thanking them for their service.

Roy loved Veteran’s Day. I still miss my friend. We were a great team for 12 years. I love telling veterans how much I miss him.

Thank a veteran

Thank a veteran this Veteran’s Day and if you can send them my way for an interview. I’d love to get their story recorded for their family and for our country. Call me at the Owensville Branch at 513-732-6084.

Written by Chris Rich, Branch Manager of the Batavia and Owensville Branches.