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History buff learns first-hand from vets

December 19, 2011
Jenn Brookens , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Randy Beck of Fairmont was able to cross an item off his bucket list earlier this month.

As a Marine Corp veteran, Beck has always had an interest in the military, specifically World War II, owning about 600 books on the subject. Earlier this month, he was able to visit Pearl Harbor during the 70th anniversary of the bombing that led to the U.S. involvement in World War II.

"I've been over to Hawaii several times, and I always wanted to go to Pearl Harbor during one of the big anniversaries," he said. "It had to be done soon; the youngest survivors from that attack are 87 years old."

Article Photos

Randy Beck, right, chats with veterans Will Lehner, left, and Delton Walling during his trip to Pearl Harbor during the 70th anniversary of the Pearl harbor attack.

There were about 220 Pearl Harbor survivors there during the week-long anniversary event. Beck said every chance he could, he was talking to survivors.

"When you asked these men where they were when the attack happened, they'd turn and point," Beck said. "The visitor's center was right across the water from where it happened ... When we first got there, I found two veterans, and I ended up sitting down and spending four hours just talking to them about their experiences."

Beck noted that while war survivors do not always want to share their stories when they come home, many of the World War II veterans were eager to tell their tales.

"They talked not only about that day, but all of these men also spent four more years in the war," he said. "They want to talk now. They want to remember and have it remembered not for themselves, but those they lost. They talk about the ones that were killed with reverence. One vet I talked to said the guy standing right next to him at the time was killed. That was his best friend."

Part of Beck's passion for World War II comes from his father, who is also a WWII vet.

"There are a lot of WWII vets in this area, and I would encourage the younger generations to spend some time talking to them. You can get things from a textbook, but there's so much more from these people. And they're a dying breed. Who will be their voice?"

While Beck has an unwavering respect for "the greatest generation," the WWII veterans he met remained humble.

"Their main theme is they just did the job they had to do. They consider the ones they lost as the heroes," Beck said. "All the vets are important, but this generation is important and they're leaving us in a hurry."

 
 

 

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