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Vets film vets for posterity


JC Veterans Association takes on ambitious goals



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Johns Creek Veterans Association Board members are from left, co-founder John Kachmar, Gerry Lewis, Ed Pearlman, Robby Newton, Dale Greene and Wayne Kidd. So far, they have three stories saved on tape. HATCHER HURD. (click for larger version)

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Videographer Bob Woodhead, left, gives pointers to veterans Gerry Lewis, Art Miller and Kirk Canaday in how best to capture interviews with combat veterans telling of their war experiences. HATCHER HURD. (click for larger version)
February 06, 2013
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. The Johns Creek Veterans Association is a new organization made up of older men who share some common experiences at an uncommon time in their lives. Now, they like to remember the comradeship of those days and show they have something to contribute to the community as well.

The 30-plus veteran members are almost all over 50 and whose former ranks range from a former three-star general to E-4 (corporal). But there is little if any notice of former ranks. And neither has the brevity of the veterans association's existence or the age of its members deterred them from taking on some ambitious projects.

When they began to meet one year ago, they had no money and no projects. Just a desire to socialize and recall old times, said JCVA President Gerry Lewis. City Manager John Kachmar, also one of the founding members, said they decided the veterans organization in a new city could "help develop a sense of place and be a leadership organization."

Kachmar also suggested they begin capturing the memories and the combat stories of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Afghanistan-Iraq. That got them started on their first community project.

They have three on tape so far, including one Medal of Honor winner, with the help of Johns Creek High School students and the JCHS media department.

"But we are learning how to do the whole process ourselves," said Lewis.

And if that were not enough, the vets have also joined hands with the 2013 class of Leadership Johns Creek to raise $300,000 for a veterans memorial in Newtown Park. (See the Johns Creek Herald, Jan. 23 at Northfulton.com).That is quite an undertaking for a crew of around 35 who have been organized just 12 months.

Lewis acknowledged they could have formed local chapters of the American Legion of the VFW, but were looking for fellowship that was less formally organized than those organizations.

"We're not lobbying for veterans rights or anything. We're just ex-military guys who like to get together," Lewis said.

Kachmar had been in a similar veterans association in another city, and told the guys about what filming veterans' stories had opened up for them. Their first was the firsthand account of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston (Johns Creek Herald, May 22, 2012), and how he won the Congressional Medal of Honor at Dai Do, Vietnam.

The aging two million survivors of the 16 million U.S. veterans of World War II are dying at a rate of around 1,000 a day. So there is a sense of urgency to capture the stories of the simple G.I. who did his duty.

"So we need to start getting these veterans on the record," said Lewis. "With each tape, we make one for the veteran and one for us to keep. And one copy is sent to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where it can be part of the oral history of the men and women who served."

Those interested in participating or who have a friend or relative who could, should contact Parks Manager Robby Newton at 678-512-3239 to make it happen.

Veterans of any branch of military service living in Johns Creek are welcome to come to any meeting at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at Park Place at Newtown School (inside Newtown Park) at 3125 Old Alabama Road.

In addition to community service projects, there are social activities. At each meeting on the second Wednesday, a social time and meal is offered at 6:30 p.m.

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