Junior ROTC Cadets Salute Atlantic Shores Veterans with Intergenerational Program to Record Personal Stories of Military History

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Interviews to be Stored at Library of Congress as Permanent Testimonies

Atlantic Shores resident veterans shared their military experiences with the next generation of cadets.

Our resident veterans felt that participating was an experience of a lifetime.

Stories of bravery and sacrifice were handed down from one generation to the next at the launch of Vets and Cadets, a unique program to honor military veterans.

Created for Cox/First Colonial High School Navy Junior Reserve Training Corps in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the program pairs cadets ages 15-18 with veterans, to interview and record their personal stories using an app called Storycorps.me. When completed, each veteran’s story is uploaded to the Library of Congress for posterity - - to keep history alive for future generations. The first group of featured WWII, Korean and Vietnam War veterans were residents from Atlantic Shores, the neighborhood for 55 and better in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The project came about when retired Navy Captain Ted Davis was sitting outside his home, selling his possessions in preparation for his move to Atlantic Shores. Young neighbor and Naval Junior ROTC cadet Miles Abernethy noticed Ted was selling a sea chest and vast collection of Naval memorabilia. Miles was intrigued and began to talk to Ted, discovering that he had an impressive Naval career. Captain Davis then showed Miles his prized possessions and shared stories of daring cold war-era submarine chases as captain of the USS Grenadier.

When he returned home, Miles researched more about Captain Davis on the internet, and felt compelled to thank Ted for his service, and share his stories with others. With Virginia Beach’s rich Naval tradition, he realized there were thousands of retired servicemen in the area whose stories could be captured for posterity.

His mother Merri Jo supported the idea, and realized today’s “technological teens” might need some form of electronic bridge so they could connect with veterans from their perspective. That’s when she discovered the Storycorps.me app, designed to capture first-person oral histories of servicemen and women as audio interviews. The app provides sample questions, the ability to do test interviews and edits, and an easy method to upload and share.

She then approached Captain Timothy Richardt, First Colonial High School NJROTC Senior Naval Science Instructor, to create a cadet service project that also serves as a living history lesson. According to Captain Richardt, “This program gives our cadets a first-hand opportunity to experience military history from the individual human perspective, learn an unforgettable lesson about service to our nation and society, and understand what it means to embody duty and honor. It also provides those who once defended America's preceding generations with the chance to pass the torch of martial experience to tomorrow's soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines -- who stand ready to take the helm in the service and defense of our nation.”

Knowing that Ted now resides at Atlantic Shores, Merri Jo approached the community to see if they would consider recognizing their veterans by having their stories captured as the first ones for this program.

According to Atlantic Shores General Manager/CFO Eden Jones, “Of course we were thrilled to extend invitations to our resident veterans. As a community that deeply values all servicemen and women, we felt that this would be a tremendous tribute to those who heeded the call to duty. These shared stories from one generation to the next will not only honor our resident veterans, but also create a tangible legacy for them and their families.”

Captain Davis and 21 of his fellow Atlantic Shores resident veterans gathered with cadets and dignitaries to officially launch the program at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. Uniformed cadets honored veterans as they arrived with a color guard presentation and salute from one generation to the next. Cadets were paired with their mentor veterans, and given time to learn about each other before entering separate recording stations to conduct their interviews. Afterwards, each cadet posed for a selfie of themselves and their new friend to upload with the interview (sample interview: https://storycorps.me/interviews/milton-david-beach/).

“More than a dozen of our veterans shared with us afterward what a wonderful program this is. They were so impressed with the cadets, and felt that participating was an experience of a lifetime,” stated Ms. Jones.

After the kick-off event, the Aviation Museum created certificates for all participants, including a permanent hyperlink to each veteran’s feature - - providing successive generations a priceless way to bring the past to life.

Moving forward, the Vets and Cadets program will continue expanding, pairing cadets with local veterans from all branches of service. Atlantic Shores will stay actively involved, including staging a “listening party” at the community, where audio recordings of all resident veterans’ interviews will be played for new and current cadets to hear, along with their new-found heroes.

For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/coxfcnjrotcprojectviewavet/, and http://www.facebook.com/atlanticshoresliving.

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Beth Pursley
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