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When told about World War II, many people may think of the harsh living conditions, the constant battles, and the fear that many people faced. But for those who lived it, the war was a much different experience. KSMU’s Royal Yates spoke with a group of people who hope to learn more about the war by traveling with veterans. They’ll visit battle sites overseas that haven’t been seen by these veterans in half a century.
Eighty years ago, war was on the minds of Americans. World War II was beginning and many people feared losing their loved ones in the battles that spread around the world. As Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, people across the U.S. began to stand up for what they believed in and many were sent to fight.
This month the College of the Ozarks has partnered with the “Greatest Generation” organization to take those who suited up for war back to the places where they fought. They’ll be traveling with C of o students.
In fact, 20 students and 10 veterans left Monday on a two week adventure that C of O has entitled the “Victory in Europe Tour.” They’ll visit battle sites in Italy, Austria, Germany, and Tunisia in northern Africa.
Many of the veterans who are chosen to go on trips like these are surprised that they will get to see the places where they fought so many years ago. Ed Janosik is traveling with the group this week. We spoke with him before he left.
“I’m certainly looking forward to doing a little bit of international travel again! At the age of 92, I didn’t really expect that,” Janosik said.
Janosik fought, and was injured in the battle of El Guettar in Tunisia – a battlefield that the State Department says is not often visited. While there, he will tell the students stories of what life was like as he fought in the conditions of the Sahara Desert. He says he think the students have a lot to learn.
He said, “Well, I hope one of the things they get from this is the fact that war is a pretty dumb way to solve problems. Sometimes – as in WWII – we didn’t have a choice. You know, there are those people who think the best way to solve a problem is to drop a nuke on them. Of course, that means that they don’t know very much.”
As the veterans and the students explore the foreign lands and continue to learn from one another, C of O Vice President Fred Mullinax says they begin to form a very unique bond.
He told us, “The bonds that have formed between the veterans and these students at our college have been very gratifying to see – the veterans tend to think of them as their grandkids, and the students seem to think of the veterans as their grandfathers.”
This has been the fifth overseas trip that C of O has participated in with Greatest Generation in the last 12 months. There are plans to take more trips and provide more students with this once-in-a-lifetime experience over the next year. Over 200 students applied for the opportunity to prepare and travel with the veterans – only 20 were selected. Mullinax says the program has been an amazing asset to the C of O community.
“It’s a wonderful program. We have just really fallen in love with these veterans – they’re such national treasures, such wonderful individuals. It’s a very educational program, and we had very high expectations for this, and they’ve exceeded them,” he said.
The group of 30 students and veterans left on Monday and will return in two weeks. A sixth tour, called “South of the Equator” is expected to happen later this year.
For KSMU News, I’m Royal Yates.