Lake County veterans tell their stories for Library of Congress
U.S. Medal of Honor recipient Allen Lynch deeply thanked fellow veterans at the Lake County courthouse Tuesday for sharing their wartime stories from the past for others to read in the future.
"Everybody has a story that is absolutely his and his alone," Lynch said. "We all have a place to tell our story. So take the time today to tell your story."
Lynch spoke to 34 veterans Tuesday minutes before the Lake County legal community honored Veterans Day by interviewing them for the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.
Attorneys from the Lake County States Attorney's Office and the Lake County Public Defender's Office questioned the veterans about their service. Their accounts were recorded by volunteer court reporters, then transcribed and shipped for documentation at the Library of Congress.
Veterans were recognized in many other ways at many other locations in Lake County on Tuesday.
Students at Frederick School in Grayslake watched a demonstration by the Drill Team from Great Lakes Naval Station, visited with local veterans -- including parents and grandparents of classmates -- and heard from guest speaker Illinois National Guard Brig. Gen. Richard Hayes.
"When you think about being a kid in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, there is war all around them, but because of our great military and the veterans that serve, we don't have to worry about those things here in the United States," Hayes told students. "Anytime you see a veteran, it doesn't matter where, a simple thank you is very much appreciated."
Navy Capt. David Jones, executive officer of the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, was the featured speaker at the Veterans Day ceremony in Lindenhurst.
"We remember those fallen in the service of our country, we remember those who have served, and we remember our active members and their families who support them," he said. "Everybody's contribution is what makes this country strong."
Some veterans were in tears at the end of the ceremony as Lindenhurst police Officer Rebecca Labb sang "The Eighth of November," about the death of a young soldier in Vietnam.
Veterans of that war, along with World War II and the Korean War, took part of the history project at the courthouse in Waukegan.
Henry Borden, a U.S. Army veteran who served with Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army in Northern France, was among those sharing their stories. He recalled his service as a tank operator who helped take back Paris from the German's in World War II.
"For a day straight, all you saw was airplanes in the sky," he said during his interview. "It was crazy, but we made it."
Deborah Cohen-Rojas coordinated the court reporter volunteers. She said project the provides a special opportunity for court reporters to give back to veterans in a unique way.
"Our volunteers have expressed how very fortunate they are to be able to provide this service to men and women who have given so much of themselves to their country," she said. "Helping our veterans preserve their histories is a fulfilling and important experience, and we are forever changed after hearing their stories."
Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Ken LaRue, a captain in the U.S. Navy who returned to the courthouse about a month ago after serving 358 days in Kabul, Afghanistan, was among the lawyers interviewing veterans.
"I do this because I have so much respect for the people who served before I did," LaRue said. "I want to hear what they have to say, and I want their memories to be preserved for the future."
Veteran's from all branches of service were involved in the project, LaRue said. Interviewees included a U.S. Marine who survived Pearl Harbor, a U.S. Navy sailor assigned to the USS Princeton that sank at Leyte Gulf in World War II, and several other infantry soldiers who served under Patton.
"As time goes on, more and more war veterans pass away and the details of their experiences and those of their comrades are lost to the American people," said Chief Judge John Phillips. "War veterans are often hesitant to talk about their own experiences because of a sense of humility, but they are often the last witnesses to the sacrifice and bravery of others who did not survive the war or have since passed. The events they witnessed firsthand and their memories of their comrades-in-arms need to be preserved."