Co-founded by a WWII Navy veteran, U-Haul is proud to participate in events that honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces. U-Haul was recently privileged to serve as a Headline Sponsor for the eighth annual God and Country Veterans Living History Event in Kingston, N.Y.
The multiday event is for students, families and anyone else wishing to learn about U.S. history through the stories and experiences of military members. Ten featured speakers at the event, ranging from WWII veterans to a National Gold Star mother, presented oral histories and shared their feelings about what it means to be part of the military’s legacy of service.
“The God and Country Veterans Living History Event was created to honor veterans and to use their stories to teach others about the cost of freedom,” stated event founder Bob Willis. “We especially wanted to reach out to middle-school and high-school students, and to expose them to some aspects of history that they don’t get to spend a lot of time on in school.
“We can all benefit from learning about our forefathers’ patriotism, courage and sacrifice,” Willis continued. “Many veterans of 20th-century conflicts, specially the veterans who served in WWII, are getting into their 80s and 90s. So we want to hear from as many of them as possible and make sure that their stories are saved for future generations.”
A powerful lineup
With a school appearance and a veterans’ roundtable on Friday, as well as a series of presentations and an honorary dinner on Saturday, the two-day event was jam-packed for everyone involved. Retired U.S. Army National Guard Col. Dave Gagnon served as the emcee.
“While the whole event was unforgettable, my favorite part was seeing how grateful each veteran was to share their stories — the good ones and the bad ones — with others,” Gagnon said. “Unfortunately, many veterans of 20th-century wars, like WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, returned from active duty with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and felt as though they had to bury their trauma down deep inside of them and just move on. This weekend, by telling their stories and shining a light on some of the things that they’ve been through, many of the speakers were able to find some much-needed peace.”
For hours on Friday and Saturday, the audience was spellbound as they heard stories that outmatched anything you could find in a book or on a movie screen. Whether it was U.S. Navy veteran Jack Holder talking about hiding from Japanese machine-gun fire in a sewer ditch during the Pearl Harbor attack, or U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Carey Rhodomoyer giving a first-hand account of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, each speaker shared intensely moving and unforgettable experiences.
“As I listened to the speakers, I felt grateful and blessed to live in the United States of America,” Willis said. “Each presenter was so humble, and they wouldn’t call themselves ‘heroes’ by any means. But it’s thanks to them that we enjoy the blessings of freedom. We owe them and all of our veterans an immense debt of gratitude.”
Making the event a reality
As Headline Sponsor, U-Haul worked to help make the Veterans Living History Event one to remember. Holder, who lives in Arizona and has collaborated with U-Haul on other veteran-related occasions, appeared at the conference as a U-Haul honored guest. In addition, U-Haul provided renowned American artist Raymond Simon, whose patriotic-themed works have been displayed at the White House, the Pentagon and many other government buildings, with a moving van to get himself and several paintings to and from the event.
“We displayed the paintings at the event, and they were beautiful,” Willis said. “They made a great backdrop to all of the presentations and activities that occurred over the weekend. We’re so grateful to U-Haul for enabling Raymond and Jack to come to New York and share their talents and stories with us.”
“U-Haul was the Veterans Living History Event’s first-ever National Sponsor, and their support made a world of difference,” Gagnon added. “Many local businesses have also stepped up over the years to help, so between their support and that of U-Haul, we had the ability to invite more attendees, do more activities and really make this an all-around outstanding event.”
To learn more about U-Haul Company’s history of supporting and honoring veterans, click here.