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Remembering the Greatest Generation

By Sherrie Norris (

Article Published: May. 16, 2013 | Modified: May. 19, 2013

The second annual World War II Symposium, hosted by the Appalachian High Country World War II Roundtable Inc., will be held Saturday, May 18, at Watauga High School in Boone.

The daylong event, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., will provide an opportunity for those who fought in World War II to share their memories with the younger generation and all others who will attend.

The conference will have many similarities to the 2012 event held on the campus of Appalachian State University, said Matt Bagley, president of the sponsoring group.

“We will have noted military and history experts serving as our guest speakers and numerous WWII veterans who will be sharing their stories with the audience, as well as individuals who stop by their tables,” Bagley said. “We will also have a room dedicated to war memorabilia and artifacts.”

Special presentations include: “American Military and Environment, 67 years Later by N.C. Sen. Dan Soucek, West Point graduate and member of the North Carolina Army National Guard; “D-Day, Normandy; The Road Home” by Judkin Browning, professor of history at ASU, who is also a published author on the Civil War and a WWII history buff; “Stalingrad; Our Allies from the East” by Anatoly Isaenko, professor of history at ASU and a native of Stalingrad, Russia, where some of the most infamous fighting occurred.

It is the hope of Bagley and others working with him, including Keith Buchanan and Ken Wiley, that the younger generation, specifically high school students, will take part in the event and, more importantly, leave with a renewed interest and appreciation for a significant time in history.

“We want those grandfathers and great-grandfathers to talk — and we want the grandchildren to ask questions,” Bagley said.

Saturday’s event is being planned in conjunction Watauga High’s administration, history teachers and students.

“Participating students will be linked with WWII veterans, at least for the day,” Bagley said. “They will get to know each other and sit together during the event.”

Before the symposium, each student will review the previously taped documentary of the veteran to which he or she will spend the day.

“In addition to Ken (Wiley), other WWII veterans, including H.C. Moretz and Sam Wotherspoon are helping coordinate this program,” Bagley said.

Having made it his personal mission for many years to make sure the aging veterans are not forgotten, Wiley said bringing a symposium to Boone “was a dream come true.”

A WWII Coast Guard veteran and author, he helped organize the Appalachian High Country World War II Roundtable Inc., and has videoed dozens of interviews with local veterans, which are now a part of documented history and protected in video libraries. Wiley also conducts monthly meetings of the roundtable at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center in Boone for the veterans to have a place to socialize, reminisce and discuss topics of interest.

Bagley said community participation will be key to the event’s success.

“We will also be hearing from a few women who went beyond their comfort zones back home to make a difference,” Bagley said. “In an effort to remind folks how the war affected many more than just the soldier or sailor, I will be reading a story written by Sue Counts of Boone.

“Eula Mae Fox, also of Boone, will recount her memories as a young girl in the Aho community of Watauga County, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor to scavenging for scrap metal and selling war bonds. Shirley Isenhour, who also resides in the area, will be discussing her experiences around the effort to secure victory.

(Some of these women will be among the WWII affiliates honored at the upcoming All About Women Expo on June 29 at Watauga High School with a selection of their accounts appearing in the June and July issues of All About Women magazine.)

Saturday’s symposium will be free of charge and open to the public.

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