Veterans stories are being preserved in a project making sure these experiences are not lost to history. Sean Winn spends several hours a day on his computer, going over the stories of more than a dozen people who helped change the course of history. Winn started Patriot Features two years ago to tell the stories of the Greatest Generation. Stories that we are losing every day.
“I love a story. I love people’s stories,” said Winn going through his project on Jake Simonitsch, a World War II and Korean War Veteran.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, just 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII are still living. The department also estimates that nearly 400 WWII veterans die every day.
“We’re trying to make sure these stories are not lost to history,” said Winn. Simonitsch has a story right out of the history books. He was a navigator in a B-17 in Europe and in a B-29 in Korea. Winn and Simonitsch talk for hours about his service and his life after the war with his wife of 65 years.
“Donna and I had 7 children and God blessed us with all of them,” Simonitsch told Winn.
Winn takes the interview and compresses it down to a 10-12 minute documentary told in the veteran’s own words.
“I like to think that we’re helping families and these veterans pass down their values more than their valuables,” said Winn.
“I mean it’s a treasure,” said Janet Simonitsch, Jake’s Daughter, trying to hold back tears when the family watched the story in their Independence home. “I’ve heard all the stories before but just to really see it come alive and to watch my dad’s reaction to it, it’s real special.”
Stories like when Jake, then a first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps was shot down flying one of the first U.S. raids on Berlin in 1944.
“Guys hitting me in the shoulder. He says we’ve got to get out – we got hit. We’re going to bail out,” Simonitsch recalled.
He bailed out and landed near a German officer with his gun drawn. Simonitsch spent 15 months as a prisoner of war, not sure if he would ever make it home.
“I was in Stalag Luft 1, was a prison camp for military officers,” he said.
Simonitsch and his family now have all these stories forever told with pictures to go along with the memories.
Patriot Features is a non-profit organization and produces each video for free as a gift to the veteran and to their families.
The hope is that these stories will be passed down for generations to come.
“It means a lot because we’ll have it forever,” said Janet.
Jake Simonitsch’s feature is one of more than a dozen Winn and Patriot Features have produced over the past two years, with hopes to tell more in the years to come so these stories are never forgotten.
“Even long after the veteran is gone, their family is going to have this moment in time,” said Winn.