FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — With the death of every veteran, we lose a chapter in our nation's history. On Memorial Day, veterans shared their stories of bravery and heroism as part of a national project, but they said they have a deeper purpose.
Against the backdrop of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Monday, veterans swapped old war stories. At 87 years old, Thomas Lamar Simmons of Lillington is not as strong as he used to be, but his memory is sharper than ever. As an Air Force Pilot, he flew B-17s in 13 missions over Germany, including the bombing of Berlin.
Those experiences, he said, changed his life.
"It showed me how to appreciate what we had, what had been given to us by our parents and friends," he said.
James Lawrence, a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division, said he was happy to see America's renewed interest in Memorial Day, but he hopes to see the same patriotic pride next year.
"That's what it is, a memorial. We're supposed to memorialize our fallen comrades," Lawrence said.
Both Lawrence and Simmons are a part of the Veterans' History Project -- a campaign spearheaded by Rep. Bob Etheridge. The project will create a national collection of stories and documents of war veterans.
Simmons said today's soldiers need to be reminded that they're fighting for our freedom.
"It takes a lot of effort and work to maintain it and unless somebody does, we're going to lose it," he said.
Etheridge created the Veterans' History Project two years ago. The interviews, photographs and other memorabilia collected from veterans will be preserved in the Library of Congress.