Preserving the stories of Korean War vets

“At least 500 veterans are dying every week in Canada… If we don’t get their stories now, we will lose them forever.” Jeremy Diamond, Historica-Dominion Institute.

Toronto Star

Gilbert Ndikubwayezu: July 14th, 2011 

Capt. Mort Lightstone spent 6,600 hours in the air during the Korean War. He doesn’t want that to be forgotten.

“As time goes by, we lose memory of those bad times,” said the 78-year-old veteran, who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force when he was 18. Today, he takes pride in talking to students around the country about his experience as a navigator in the war, and teaching them how to “salute veterans.”

Lightstone, who served for 28 years in the Canadian military, still remembers how terrifying it could get.

“We knew dying was part of the game,” he said, adding it shows the determination to defend people’s rights abroad.

Lightstone believes every Canadian should have a chance to know what veterans went through as they fought during World War II and the Korean War. He is among the war vets who have joined the Historica-Dominion Institute’s Memory Project to help get their stories heard and shared by Canadians.

The Memory Project started gathering and recording stories from the Second World War in 2009. It has so far archived first-hand accounts from more than 2,000 veterans on an extensive, interactive website.

This week, the project received a federal grant of $1.2 million to expand its archives and include testimonies from Korean War veterans.

“Every veteran who fought this war deserves to be able to share their stories,” said Heritage Minister James Moore.

The Historica-Dominion Institute knows it has to act fast to preserve history.

There are about 10,000 Korean War veterans still alive, as well as 143,000 veterans of World War II. With the new funding, the institute hopes to be able to record at least 500 testimonies of those who fought in Korea, plus as many as they can from the World War II veterans during the next three years.

There is more pressure now more than ever.

“At least 500 veterans are dying every week in Canada,” said Jeremy Diamond, institute’s director of programs and development. “If we don’t get their stories now, we will lose them forever.”

For Lightstone the project is also about inspiring young generations through the show-and-tell approach.

“Remembrance is more than just Nov. 11, it’s about maintaining that peace we have,” he said.

Canada sent close to 30,000 troops to the Korean War, and more than 500 died on the battlefield in a struggle to deter communist forces that had invaded South Korea in 1950.

See original here.

Visit the Historica-Dominion Institute website here.

“The Historica-Dominion Institute’s mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada.”

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