It was a day for celebrating the inspiring stories of veterans when Wilkes University hosted the 7th annual Heroes Brunch. Students, veterans and guests gathered in the Henry Student Center Ballroom on Nov. 13 for the event. The attendees represented military who have served in conflicts from World War II to the Gulf War. Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy welcomed the honored guests, reminding them, “your service will not be forgotten.”
Hosted by 62 Wilkes freshmen in First-Year Foundations classes, the veterans have been interviewed by the students about their war-time experiences as part of an oral history project. The recorded interviews will later be shared with the Library of Congress. Since the oral history project began in 2012, over 400 oral histories have been recorded by Wilkes students.
First-year student Lilli Millon, a nursing major, shared her insights during the event, and about the relationship she was able to have with her veteran, Harold Evans who served in World War II. “Harold reminded me of my grandfather,” she shared. “The more I spoke with him, the more I felt a deep connection.”
Evans agreed. “She’s very nice,” he said. “I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Other students had similar experiences. “I love sharing and hearing someone else’s story,” said Ethan Speicher, a communication studies major. “It’s amazing.” The veteran he was paired with, Lenard Hrobak, added that he enjoyed meeting with Speicher. “We got along good,” he said.
Samuel Greenberg, a Navy and Marine World War II veteran, shared his experience as an operating room technician, the position he took at just 17. “To describe that would be hard,” he said. “I grew up overnight. Overnight, I became a man.”
Gerald Gurnari, an Army Gulf War veteran, shared his gratitude with the University for the event and recognized Marcia Balester, professor and coordinator of the First-Year Foundations program. She has organized the event and veterans oral history project for seven years.
Nursing student Courtney Dolan was paired with Rudolph Bullard, a Vietnam veteran. Dolan explained that Bullard was in the Navy for 29 years and shared his experiences of working in the submarines with her. “It was a very good experience,” she said. “The only veterans I knew were my grandfathers and to have that point of view from someone I didn’t know…was something I never experienced.”