Group of eighth-graders working to preserve WWII veterans’ stories

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HARTLAND (WITI) -- Technology is changing the way we preserve our past. Now, anyone with a smartphone can record a moment of time. A group of eighth-graders from Swallow School in Hartland is making videos to share the stories of our country's veterans.

All it takes is a camera, a tripod, and a willingness to listen to capture history.

"Generally we do ask a few questions but we like to just hear their stories and let them tell it how it is," Jacob Julius said.

Julius is one of five eighth-graders who make up the SAVE (Survivor and Veteran Experiences) Team.

Last year, they began video recording World War II veterans and their stories for a community outreach competition. However, the project grew so quickly and had such an effect that they're now looking to create a non-profit organization to continue the preservation effort.

"I never thought it would get this big," Julius said.

"We really need this. The soul of a country is how it treats its veterans," Charles Franzke said.

Franzke is one of the veterans included on the group's first DVD set. He believes the knowledge and impact of World War II is slowly being lost as his generation disappears.

"People's memories start when they`re born and anything previous to that they really don`t know much about," Franzke said.

While 14-year-old Morgan Roelke is a member of the younger generation, she's finding the veterans' stories are giving her a personal connection to Franzke's era.

"There`s been a lot of emotions. I mean, we`ve been through so many things. One man that we interviewed was actually on the beach at Iwo Jima. It`s really taken a level, a new level of maturity on our part to have to deal with this new emotion that, you know, as eighth-graders you`re not really used to that," Roelke said.

As word of this simple, yet meaningful act spreads, Roelke says she would like to see other students launch their own SAVE Team.

"What if kids from Kentucky, what if they want to do this at their school too? What if they want to do what we do? That`s exactly what we want because we`re not going to be able to reach everyone," Roelke said.

One day, even our newest generation of veterans will be gone. These teenagers hope what they've started will grow to include their stories.

"I am personally hoping that we can interview Korean veterans, Vietnam veterans and veterans from all other wars and preserve their stories for future generations to come," Julius said.

"In the future they won`t remember Vietnam. They weren`t there. Even for me, I don`t know that much about it and we are starting to gain this knowledge of World War II more and more but eventually we`re going to need to keep preserving knowledge from other things because the cycle just keeps going on and on," Roelke said.

More and more people are hearing about the SAVE Team's recordings.

Several museums and veterans' organizations across the country have requested their own copy of the group's first DVD.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the SAVE Team.

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