St. John’s residents and St. John Fisher College students recently came together to share personal stories as part of a new program through the college called Dialogues on War.
Seven residents sat down with students to share and document their wartime stories.
The program is meant to give local veterans a forum to deliver their own personal accounts of service while providing students with an opportunity to lead the discussion and absorb the perspectives of men and women who were intimately involved in the war effort throughout the 20th century.
“These stories are so important for us to remember and understand,” St. John Fisher student Michael Lang said. “That’s really why we are doing this. To get a dialogue going and keep our collective memory strong.”
The St. John’s residents who participated in the program included Harold Schwartz, who was drafted and assigned to the U.S. Army on Oct. 5, 1944. His service included Patton’s 3rd Army as part of a machine-gun squad moving east across Germany in early 1945. Schwartz enjoyed talking to the students and taking part in the program.
“I enjoyed relaying stories. All of us who have been in the service have a story to tell,” Schwartz said. “The two students seemed very interested. I think they got something out of it. I hope they did.”
Carolyn Vacca, chair of the History Department at St. John Fisher, co-authored the Dialogues on War grant, which was awarded funding through the National Endowment of the Humanities. Vacca hopes to host 50 Dialogues on War sessions with various Rochester-area veterans and wants the initiative to be the start of a sustainable program that can connect generations for years to come.
“We wanted to bring together intergenerational discussions about the ideas of war,” Vacca said. “The idea is to spark discussions about the past — when young people could be drafted into service — and compare that to today, where we have an all-volunteer force.”
St. John’s residents and the students ended their discussion by talking about how war has changed over time and the growth of the military-industrial complex and had a debate about whether America should remain the world’s policeman.
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