News

Veterans Day honors war heroes and U.S. history

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Residents will have an opportunity to learn about Veterans Day through the art of storytelling from 1 to 3:30 p.m. today at the Federal Way Regional Library, 34200 1st Way S.

The Federal Way Historical Society and library will celebrate Veterans Day with a ceremony featuring military memorabilia, stories and memories. Attendees will receive a glimpse into the lives of military men and women from the Civil War era to the present.

Radio broadcaster and storyteller Joe McHugh, who documents family stories, will share a collection of war and military anecdotes he has heard. McHugh has collected thousands of tales, many of which have been passed down from generation to generation or among family members, he said.

“People have a real desire to tell the family story,” McHugh said.

For the past seven years, McHugh has used storytelling as a way to allow listeners to peer through a window and into the lives of ordinary people, he said. A story can transcend time and language; it can permit people to connect and sift through the meaning behind the words, he said.

“(The stories) are important because they come out of genuine experience,” McHugh said.

Though McHugh has not made the final selection of which stories he will share, there are a few he considers memorable. One is a story generated by his own family.

McHugh’s father served in World War II. He was a war hero who earned three Purple Hearts, but he died from polio when McHugh was 1 year old.

After returning from the war, he told McHugh’s mother that war is an act that allows no room for honorable men. An honorable man that participates in war, despite his good intentions, will not escape it without committing an act that will threaten that honor and deeply affect who he is, he said. Years later, McHugh’s mother shared this story with him.

Though family stories are important, so are personal recollections. Veterans from the audience will have an opportunity to speak about their experiences in the United States military. Many veterans are reluctant to tell their stories, said Lyle Whipple, American Legion post 232 commander.

Some are hesitant to share their stories because they do not view themselves as writers or public speakers, Whipple said. They do not always like to discuss what they have experienced or seen because at times it brings up bad or shameful memories, he said.

“It’s pretty tearful sometimes to hear some stories,” he said.

Other veterans do not pass along their stories and experiences because they feel an anti-military way of thinking is more common this day in age, Whipple said. How the public views military servicemen and women has changed over time, he said. People use to lie to get into the military and be proud to serve their country with honor, regardless of whether they agreed with the politics behind the conflict, he said.

Despite some veterans’ reluctance to pass along their stories, Whipple feels it is important to do so. The stories help educate the public, especially younger generations who have not experienced war or the military, about what it means to be a veteran, he said.

To add to the meaning of the word veteran, war memorabilia dating back to the Civil War will be on display at the ceremony. Military clothing, weapons and dog tags, among other things, can be seen. These objects are often better appreciated when one has a story to accompany them, McHugh said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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To learn more about Joe McHugh or to hear some of the stories he has collected, visit his Web site at http://americanfamilystories.org/. To learn more about this event, contact the Federal Way Regional Library at (253) 838-3668.

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