Cabarrus historians work to keep war history alive [Independent Tribune, Concord, N.C.]
(Independent Tribune (Concord, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 30--Veterans of several wars gathered on Wednesday at the Wm. L. Whitley Sr. Annex Chapel in Kannapolis for lunch, speakers and a chance to make a video record of their war experiences.
The Historic Cabarrus Association's Concord Museum has undertaken a project to record local residents' war experiences for future generations.
George Patterson, a war historian, along with Jimmy and Bonte Kee, are the three primary volunteers working with the veterans to record the personal information.
World War II veterans are dying at up to 1,000 a day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"You think you know the history, but you don't until you sit down with these guys," Jimmy Kee said. "That's where you get the history."
So far, they have collected between 200 and 250 stories.
"They tell a lot of personal stories," Jimmy Kee said. "One man, Ray Hurlocker, was in World War II, and he shipped out. He was in a horrible place, had come in on Utah Beach and marched his way to Germany. He was walking down the road, and heard someone say, 'Hey comrade.' When he looked back, it was someone named Johnny Newton. He and Johnny were friends, and he had no idea they were in the same place, but he turned around and there he was. It was great story."
For Patterson, his desire to collect these stories came after the loss of his brother, Lewis "Buddy" Patterson III, who served two tours in Vietnam.
Buddy, 65, passed away last July, and Patterson regretted never talking about his brother's Vietnam service.
"He wasn't one to talk," Patterson said.
During his first tour, he was not involved in battle. Instead, he was involved in office work in Saigon.
When Buddy returned, his tour was over, so he decided to make a career out of the military.
He and four other friends decided to re-enlist if they would send them back to Vietnam and keep them together, but as soon as they hit the tarmac in Vietnam, they were separated. They split the five men up, and Patterson's brother was sent to where the fighting was at Ho Chi Minh Trail.
"Buddy spent his entire second tour dodging bullets," Patterson said. "We never had the opportunity to videotape him."
Patterson has been with the Concord Museum since 2003 as an officer, but was involved with Historic Cabarrus since the 1990s.
"Our goal is to videotape as many individuals as we possibly can. They can be taped through Historic Cabarrus. You can call and we will go wherever is necessary to make the tapes," Patterson said.
They hope to eventually raise the funds to have the tapes available to the public for viewing at a library.
Concord resident Charlie Cross served as a chief petty officer in the Navy for 22 years.
From 1956 to 1978, Cross served aboard ballistic missile submarines. He spent 15 of those years aboard a nuclear submarine.
Cross had his experiences videotaped for the project by the Kees.
"It's wonderful in the submarine. It's quiet and peaceful. When they submerge, it's very peaceful," Cross said.
He loved his time on the nuclear submarines because you could never hear them.
He said he enjoyed telling his story.
"The project is very important," Cross said. "They need to get more people than me. I didn't really do much."
"The idea is to pack a computer with all the information from all veterans in Cabarrus County from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan," Patterson said. "Have every single veteran we can find, and we have wonderful records."
For more information on Historic Cabarrus and the project, visit www.historiccabarrus.org or call 704-782-3688.
Contact reporter Robin L. Gardner: 704-789-9140
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Copyright (c) 2009, Independent Tribune, Concord, N.C.
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