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Veterans History Project meets for first time in 15 months


Special to The Press

It’s been 15 months since a roundtable was held for the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project.

A special meeting took place June 26 at the Lehigh Valley Active Life Center, Allentown, to honor and celebrate 12 World War II veterans.

The gathering was organized to have the veterans and two “Rosie the Riveters” sit at individual tables to greet guests.

A typical meeting would host one veteran at a time at the podium.

These members of “The Greatest Generation” told their wartime stories through personal memorabilia and snapshots.

The meeting was opened by the Rev. Dr. Harry F. Wood, who gave the invocation.

Chris Castiello, whose father served in World War II, sang the national anthem.

Mike Sewards led the Pledge of Allegiance after Jack Craft read an excerpt of “The Meaning of the American Flag”

This was a memorial tribute to Army veteran Roy Kilpatrick who died at age 100.

Kilpatrick always read his handwritten excerpt before the pledge anytime he could to help listeners understand the flag’s importance.

The last sentence reads, “So when we pledge allegiance to our flag, we are promising to be true to our country and to the flag which is our emblem of freedom.”

Dedication memorials continued and there were special mentions of Navy veteran Richard “Dick” Musselman, 80, who was the official photographer and archivist on the leadership with the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project. Musselman died in October 2020.

Also mentioned was the late Makala Ashmar, who was a staff member with former Congressman Charlie Dent.

She helped veterans receive benefits, services and medals. She was a constant supporter for the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project.

Ashmar died in September 2020.

Next, Richard Shankweiler blew “Taps” on his bugle in honor of those who died in service to America through the generations of Armed Forces.

After an introduction of the veterans featured in the roundtable, Sewards invited all in attendance to visit with them at their individual tables.

The gathering of veterans and guests were then asked to take a seat front and center for a special treat of entertainment while the dance troupe “Magnolia Sadies” performed a revue of a selection of music popular during the 1940s wartime era.

Next was a recognition for attendees with birthdays close to the date of June 26, most in their late 90s.

In a show of appreciation for the continued involvement by veterans and “Rosie the Riveters” in education communities, a Congressional certificate was awarded by military liaison and Gold Star Fellow Maureen Hickman Caporaso who works with Congresswoman Susan Wild, D-7th.

A feeling for many of those who served during the turbulent times of World War II was summarized when Army PFC Herb Ridyard explained, “I lived in great fear every minute from the first shelling, but I listened to my commander’s instructions and followed anything I was told. Because of this, I survived as a 3rd Army combat infantryman under Gen. George Patton.

“I was once a really shy guy but the war gave me the greatest confidence in the world.”

The Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project honors all those who served in times of war both at home and abroad for all branches of the Armed Services.

The 501c(3) nonprofit organization led by cofounder Sewards started in 2007 and concentrates on recording in-home interviews to document veterans’ stories during wartime.

They work in conjunction with the National Veterans History Project, which is sponsored by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where all interviews are submitted for use by researchers, educators, historians and family members.

“We have over 500 recorded interviews submitted,” Sewards said in a phone interview.

He also mentioned the outreach work they do with the juvenile probation system in the Lehigh Valley, where these youths help work on transcribing interviews and armed services uniform research.

The project raises proceeds to go on honor bus trips with the veterans to visit Washington, D.C., and other places with wartime memorials.

To become a member or to donate to this organization go to lvveteranshistory.org.

There, view the archives through the years and meet some of the Lehigh Valley’s local veterans.

Also, appreciate the groups’ slogan, “The greatest casualty of war, is being forgotten.”

PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK The national anthem is sung by Chris Castiello during the opening of the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable. Mike Sewards leads the Pledge of Allegiance. He is founder, chairman and historian with the Lehigh Valley History Project.
Chief Petty Officer Hank Kudzik of Catasauqua, joins the Pledge of Allegiance presented by Mike Sewards. Kudzik served in WW II at the Battle of Midway as a Navy gunner's mate. A crew member of USS Nautilus Kudzik went to the Hollywood premiere of the 2019 movie “Midway” which chronicled the events of his tour.
During a memorial tribute of veterans who recently died, Jack Craft gives a reading of the reasons why the American flag is so important by design. In the past Roy Kilpatrick, a member of the U.S. Army who served in World War II would read this before the Pledge of Allegiance to both honor the flag and help teach younger generations its importance in history. He died at the age of 100. Jack Craft is the president of the nonprofit 501C3 ‘Endless Mountains War Memorial Museum' located in Sonestown, Sullivan County.
In a memorial tribute, taps was presented by Richard Shankweiler in honor of those that died in service to America.
Tech Sgt. and B-17 Engineer Army Air Force Frank McCullough answers questions about his position on the “Flying Fortress” using his model plane. McCullough served in World War II in the 34th Bomb Group as a top turret gunner.
Army Private First Class Herb Ridyard explains fascinating stories of his time during World War II. He served under Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army as a combat infantryman.
Mae Krier has become a bit of a celebrity within the history of World War II. Krier was a “Rosie The Riveter.” Beginning in 1942, as men were recruited into the Armed Forces in the early 40s, women were recruited to fill their positions and roles in factories and became role models of strength and independence. Krier makes several appearances every year and sews red and white polka dot scarves and recently face masks while helping keep the history alive by giving them to those she meets.
Chief Petty Officer Matt Gutman, Navy served in World War II. As a part of the Veterans Roundtable Meet and Greet, Gutman signs his name to the autograph page of the event program for one of the guests who came to hear the stories of these brave servicemen.
Staff Sgt. Richard Schimmel displays his Congressional recognition certificate. He is a World War II Pearl Harbor survivor with the Army Signal Company, Aircraft Warning.
Enjoying his 99th birthday cake, PFC Angelo Bokeko with the U.S. Army served in World War II in the 13th Armored Division, Combat Infantryman.
U.S. Army PFC Bert Winzer and Allentown native can't help his huge smile as he is surrounded by the Magnolia Sadies for his portrait with Michael Confer of Philadelphia. Confer volunteers his time to create these vital memories for future generations to enjoy in honor of our World War II veterans.
Punch Press Operator Dorothy Trate “Rosie the Riveter” is photographed in a “We Can Do It” pose. Trate resides in Birdsboro. She is wearing her original work uniform and fashions a head scarf meant to be sure the “Riveter” machine operators did not get their hair caught in the heavy machinery. She is full of life and loves the historical spotlight so she can share her insight of the experience with these magnificent women during World War II.
World War II Army veteran PFC Bert Winzer salutes during the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Winzer served in the Elite Commando Unit “Devils Brigade” 1st Special Service Force. He earned the Purple Heart on the border of France and Italy where he was hit with shrapnel into his shoulder. He also has received a Bronze Star and the French Legion of Home Congressional Medal. He displayed a VHS copy of the 1968 movie “The Devils Brigade” where he mentioned, “They made a movie of our unit.” He served in the “Battle of the Bulge.”
Entertainment was provided for the veterans with the Magnolia Sadies, a revue reminiscent of 40s dance style and songs of the time. Here are Shawna, Bethany and Rosalyn performing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Comments from the crowd included, “That's the ‘40s break dance” by Tony Major and “They're going to give us old guys a heart attack” by Dave Smith while giving a good chuckle.
PRESS PHOTO BY LORI PATRICK Time to celebrate the birthdays with the veterans. Heartily singing along with “Happy Birthday to You” are Angelo Bokeko, Herb and Nancy Ridyard, Clarence Schmoyer and Jerry Still. Herb and Nancy Ridyard also were recognized for their 71st wedding anniversary.