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Lehigh Valley veterans History Project holds first roundtable in 15 months

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

A special meeting took place at the Lehigh Valley Active Life Center, 1633 Elm St., Allentown, June 26, to introduce, honor and celebrate 12 World War II veterans.

The gathering was organized to have the 12 WWII veterans and two Rosie the Riveters at individual tables to greet guests.

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

These veterans of The Greatest Generation could tell their wartime stories through personal memorabilia and snapshots in a meet-and-greet style roundtable for the guests to learn stories they may never have heard anywhere else.

The meeting was opened by the Rev. Dr. Harry F. Wood for the Invocation.

Following was the singing of the National Anthem by Chris Castiello, whose father served in WWII.

Mike Sewards led the Pledge of Allegiance after Jack Craft read an excerpt of ‘the meaning of the American flag’ by design, this was a memorial tribute to U.S. Army veteran Roy Kilpatrick who passed away at 100 years old.

Kilpatrick read a handwritten excerpt before the pledge any time 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 U.S. Navy Veteran Richard “Dick” Musselman, 80, who was the official photographer and archivist on the leadership with the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project. Musselman passed in October 2020.

Also mentioned was Makala Ashmar, 29, who worked as a staff member with former Congressman Charlie Dent, where she helped Veterans receive benefits, services and medals.

She was a constant supporter for the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project.

Ashmar passed in September 2020.

Next, Richard Shankweiler played “Taps” in honor of those who died in service to America for all sacrifice through the generations of Armed Forces.

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

Once some time had passed, the gathering of Veterans and guests were 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 40s 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 Veterans and Rosie the Riveters continued involvement in education communities, a congressional certificate was presented and awarded by Military Liaison and Gold Star Fellow, Maureen Hickman Caporaso who works with Congresswoman Susan Wild, D-7th.

Next, it was time to return to the tables to have a piece of cake and hear more from the guests of honor who had much to explain with great intensity.

It seemed to sum up a feeling for many of those who served during the turbulent times of WWII when PFC Herb Ridyard explained, “I lived in great fear every minute from the first shelling, but I listened to my Commander’s instruction and followed anything I was told and because of this I survived as a 3rd Army Combat Infantryman under General 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 co-founder Mike Sewards started in 2007 and concentrates on recording in home interviews to document Veterans stories during war time.

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.

Sewards said in a phone interview they have over 500 recorded interviews submitted.

Sewards also mentioned the outreach work they do with the juvenile probation system in the Lehigh Valley, where these youths help to work on transcribing interviews as well as 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 that are holding wartime machines.

You can become a member or donate to this important organization by visiting lvveteranshistory.org.

There you can view their pages archives through the years and meet some of our local Veterans and also appreciate their slogan “The greatest casualty of war is being forgotten.”

PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK The National Anthem was sung by Chris Castiello during the opening of the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable meeting. To her left, Mike Sewards led the pledge of allegiance afterwards. He is founder, chairman, historian and interviewer of the Lehigh Valley History Project.
Chief Petty Officer Hank Kudzik of Catasauqua joins the Pledge of Allegiance presented by Mike Sewards. Hank Kudzik served in World War II in the Battle of Midway as a U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate. A crew member of USS Nautilus (submarine) Hank Kudzik mentioned he was invited and went to the Hollywood premiere of the 2019 movie “Midway,” which chronicled the events of his tour.
During a memorial tribute of veterans that recently passed, Jack Craft does a reading of the reasons why the American Flag is so important by design. In the past Roy Kilpatrick, a member of the US Army and 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 passed away at the age of 100. Jack Craft is the president of the non-profit 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.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK U.S Army Air Corps Tech Sgt. and B-17 Engineer Frank McCullough answers questions about his position on the “Flying Fortress” using a model plane. McCullough served during World War II in the 34th Bomber Group as a top turret gunner.
PFC Herb Ridyard of the U.S. Army tells stories of his time during World War II. He served under General George Patton's 3rd Army as a Combat Infantryman which he was awarded a medal for. In recent years he traveled back to Europe and found the foxhole and the house he hid in during combat. Herb Ridyard met Patton's granddaughter Helen Patton, and she accompanied him on his search.
Mae Krier was a Rosie The Riveter. Beginning in 1942, as men were recruited into the Armed Forces in the early 40's, women were recruited to fill their positions and roles in factories and became role models of strength and independence. Mae Krier makes several appearances every year and sews red and white polkadot scarves and recently face masks while helping keep the history alive by giving them to those she meets.
Chief Petty Officer Matt Gutman of US Navy served in World War II. As a part of the Veterans Roundtable Meet and Greet Matt 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.
The veterans were awarded a special Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition presented by Maureen Hickman Caporaso. Staff Sgt. Richard Schimmel displays his recognition certificate. He is a Pearl Harbor survivor with the Army Signal Company, Aircraft Warning.
Enjoying his 99th birthday cake, PFC Angelo Bokeko of the US Army served in WWII 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. Michael Confer volunteers his time to create these vital memories for future generations to enjoy in honor of our WWII Veterans.
Punch Press Operator Dorothy Trate as Rosie the Riveter in a “We Can Do It” pose. Dorothy Trate resides in Birdsboro. She is wearing her original work uniform and fashions a head scarf that were 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 WWII.
WWII Army veteran PFC Bert Winzer salutes during the singing of our National Anthem “The Star Spangled Banner.” Bert 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 in his shoulder. He displayed a photo of himself with Former United States Congressman Charlie Dent holding the shrapnel. Bert Winzer 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 perform “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Comments from the crowd included, “That's the 40s breakdance” by Tony Major and “They're going to give us old guys a heart attack” by Dave Smith while giving a good chuckle. Photo coverage continues on A3.
It was time to celebrate the birthdays with the vets, heartily singing along with the song “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. The Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project provided cake as well.