Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors: Personal stories of WW2 Veterans

Interviews, WW2

By Pierre Kosmidis

Brad Hoopes from Colorado, USA, started saving and preserving veteran stories 10 years ago. “I believe we have all the facts and figures related to WW2, but not nearly enough of the personal stories, which add a powerful dimension to the numbers and the big picture”, Brad says.  
US Government reports show that WW2 US veterans are dying out at a rate of 1000+ a day and preserving their stories for generations to come is the least Brad believes he could do. 
Brad initiated a project to promote the belief that the veterans deserve to have their stories permanently recorded as a way of honouring their invaluable contributions to protecting and preserving freedom.  
Brad has done 500+ interviews to date.  His main objective has always been to get their story down on permanent record (DVD) so that the veteran and his/her family will always have it.  
A secondary objective, only done with their permission, is to donate a copy to their local museum or library, the state university, the National WWII Museum, and the Library of Congress.
Be it the World War II veteran who went off and saved the world, the Korean War veteran who unfortunately has been largely forgotten, the Vietnam War veteran who went off to an unpopular war and sadly often came home to a type of welcome they did  not deserve, to veterans of current conflicts across the Globe (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)  


Sgt. 1st Class John Queen Charlie Smith, a World War II veteran of the 10th Mountain Division’s 85th Infantry Regiment, reflects while paying tribute to his fallen comrades at the Florence American Cemetery in northern Italy. Smith and a group of other WWII 10th Mountain Division veterans were in Italy on a reunion tour.

By saving these stories, these veterans will never be forgotten as their stories will always be available for present and future generations to know and honour.  These stories are a very important part of history and must be saved before they are lost forever.  
Brad Hoopes describes how it all started: “It was the… perfect storm of interests: a love of history, the enjoyment in listening to people’s stories, strong patriotism and an awe and respect for what these men and women have done and continue to do.
I had just read Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation” and then heard about the Library of Congress Veteran’s History Project. I thought, “why not try and do something on the local level?”, so I went out and bought a video camera, contacted veterans groups and started interviewing veterans. It has been a very fulfilling and fascinating project.
I initially started out interviewing World War II veterans simply because the clock is ticking with this group, but want and will interview any veteran. The main objective in my mind is to make sure their story is down on permanent record for them and their families to always have.
A second objective (only with their permission) is to donate a copy to the local library or museum, as well as such places as the Library of Congress and the National World War II Museum so that present and future generations will know and honor these stories as well.

WWII Navy veteran Jack Laverty is seen at his home in Dunnellon, Fla., on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011.(Jacqui Janetzko/Special to the Star-Banner)



In doing these interviews, I have tried to go after the human experience and perspective. Having this adds an additional dimension to the facts and figures we already have. I simply believe these stories are an important part of history that need to be saved before they are lost forever.”

Last year, from these interviews, Brad took out 70 from the WWII section, rewatched them, wrote an essay on each and bundled them into a book entitled : “Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors”.  “Like my project, I tried to capture the human perspective and experience in the war.  It can be found on, , and through the publisher ” Brad says.