Dr. Wesley Arden Dick – Albion College
July 8, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
For the past several years, the Jackson District Library and First United Methodist Church of Jackson have hosted a remarkable series of Veterans’ Programs entitled “World War II: In Their Own Words.” The audience has been given a front-row seat as witnesses to history made possible through the dedication of World War II enthusiast Larry Martin. Larry has recorded more than 50 interviews. The Jackson programs included DVD screenings of the interviews in tandem with the personal appearance of the veterans. Audiences have been transported back in time to Pearl Harbor, to Normandy, Omaha Beach, and D-Day, to POW experiences in Germany, to surviving the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, to surviving the Bataan Death March, to Iwo Jima, and to other historical moments in the European and Pacific wartime theaters.
The programs in Jackson have attracted large and appreciative audiences, who have a rare opportunity to meet World War II veterans, whose numbers, alas, are diminishing as time marches on.
As a history professor, I was inspired by Larry Martin’s programs to invite two of the Jackson program veterans to my Albion College history class, “America in Crisis: Great Depression, World War II, and Cold War.” Lee Zimmerman, POW of the Germans after his plane was shot down, and Gene Yehl, a marine who was part of the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima, related to my class the stories they had shared with Larry Martin. My students were enthralled as history came alive with the personal testimonies. The memories of those class sessions with the veterans will stay with the students and the professor forever.
We are all in Larry Martin’s debt for recording and presenting the veterans’ stories. The quality and variety of Larry’s veterans’ library warrant sharing with high school students, community college students, college students, and community gatherings. Audience participants will be enriched by the veterans’ personal stories. Hosting a Larry Martin veterans’ program can help communities to record their veterans’ stories before it is too late. Such gatherings also give the audience the opportunity to say thank you to the “Greatest Generation.”