BRANSON, Mo. – A 24-year-old man from Southern California is on a mission to interview every living World War II veteran.
“Talking to the veterans, You can feel what it’s like to have artillery shells going off around you,” Rishi Sharma said. “You can almost hear the planes going above.”
At 17, Rishi Sharma started riding his bike to the local retirement home in his town in Southern California. Sharma’s interest in World War II started when he was in high school. He said he read countless books, and watched every documentary he could, learning from heroes who weren’t much older than him when they went to war.
“You can’t read about this kind of stuff in a textbook. You can’t really see it on the TV,” Sharma said. “The only way to really appreciate what it was like on the frontlines is to look in the eyes of those who were there and to hear them share the frontline tales. “
Today at 24, he has traveled across the United States, Canada, The U.K., Australia and New Zealand, interviewing veterans for his nonprofit, Remember World War II.
Now his passion for preserving history has brought him to the Ozarks. This week he’s interviewing veterans including a Branson WWII Veteran who is 101 years old.
Like many veterans, 101-year-old WWII veteran Lou Unfried said his service was necessary, not extraordinary.
“In old age, I’m paying for the fun I had as a young youth. I thought it was a great, great adventure to go over and fight, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he said. “Even if I had to suffer with a bad back, it was worth it. “
Sharma said that we should look to the Greatest Generation as a source of inspiration for unity.
“They’re all from different parts of the country, different religions, different backgrounds, different economic statuses, but they all have one common purpose,” said Sharma.
Sharma said he knows he’s running out of time to sit down with the Greatest Generation, adding urgency to his timeline to get these interviews.
He doesn’t get paid for his work and lives in his car while traveling to save money. Sharma said the money raised through his nonprofit Remember World War II is devoted entirely to costs related to keeping this project running. He said donations help ensure no story is left behind.
“We get to preserve these veterans forever, and there’s no one else who deserves it more than these men,” Sharma said. “200 years from now, these veterans, their great, great, great, great grandkids are going to get to know not just what their name was, but who they are, how they spoke or how they talk. You know, their characteristics, how they speak, the funny jokes they say. “
You can click on this link to find ways to donate to Remember World War II.
Sharma said he is in the Ozarks for the next few days, trying to interview as many vets as possible. He said he doesn’t know when he will have the chance to get back to the Ozarks.
If you know a veteran who would like to share their story you can find the form to submit by clicking on this link.