WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTO | LEST WE FORGET, INC.
BRIGHTENING THE FUTURE BY ILLUMINATING THE PAST
We dream of a world where we give peace a chance, of a future where we fight no more wars. But the wars of our history must not be forgotten – their legacies are too important, their personal sacrifices too great.
“To brighten the future, we must illuminate the past” is the operating principle of Lest We Forget, a nonprofit association established by a group of veterans.
To further their mission to “illuminate the past,” Lest We Forget is hosting a reenactment of the Korean War – “The Forgotten War” – June 20 and 21 on the shores of the St. Joseph River in St. Joseph.
Narrated by historian Bill Sheets, the reenactment will present the Marines landing and attacking the Korean stronghold at Inchon, on Korea’s west coast. It will include machine guns, rifle squads, and flamethrowers as they were employed during the amphibious invasion.
The event also includes free river rides aboard three WWII landing craft used during the Korean War: LVT Waterbuffalo, LVCP Higgins boat, and LVCP DUKW. The goal is for the public to experience the crafts’ cramped quarters to gain an appreciation of what the GIs went through.
A dramatic real-life version of Washington, DC’s Korean War Veterans Memorial will be presented by another nonprofit, Freedom’s Never Free, whose traveling displays celebrate veterans. This poignant memorial includes 19 soldiers walking through a Korean rice paddy as well as three soldiers setting up a campfire.
As a service to veterans, the South Bend Mobile Vets Center will be onsite to educate and assist veterans and their family members with issues they’re facing, including PTSD, medical needs, housing, and more. Help is available to all military personnel, regardless of when they were in active duty.
On a more light-hearted note, there will also be a set replica of the long-running television series M*A*S*H (which stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), with actors portraying the beloved Hawkeye, Klinger, Radar, and “Hot Lips” Houlihan characters.
Lest We Forget in SW Michigan also hosts a patriotic concert every November with the Southshore Concert Band that draws roughly 700 people.
Other ways that the organization has “illuminated the past” in the community are through parade participation, Medal of Honor recipient presentations, and an award ceremony honoring Frank Buckles – our last WWI veteran – with an American flag.
The organization also provides TV telecasts to schools throughout the country, makes presentations about the flag, and presents college classes on WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and modern-day conflict.
In 2001, four veterans gathered stories from many local veterans and put them into a video format that teachers can use to help students understand the sacrifices made by those who served their country during wartime. They have since created an award-winning documentary video series exploring WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and more recent wars. The members have also published five books of stories from local veterans, preserving this history before it is lost or forgotten.
Lest We Forget in Southwest Michigan has approximately 300 members from both Michigan and Indiana who meet monthly. Membership is not limited to males and veterans but is open to all with an interest in promoting the nation’s military heritage.
“We don’t have borders. We include anyone who believes in what we’re doing,” stated Lee Scherwitz, board director. Scherwitz is an Air Force veteran who served for 26 years, from 1965 through 1991, in Vietnam, during the Cold War, and in Desert Storm, and now serves in supporting our veterans and educating our youth.
“We feel that patriotism is too important to be taught briefly in school. We are concerned that our younger generations may not learn enough,” Scherwitz stated. “We need to remind people that the freedoms we have today weren’t free. Lots of people lost their lives. And, most importantly, if we don’t learn from our past, we risk repeating it.”
Lest We Forget became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2006 to promote patriotism within the community. Programs like Lest We Forget can be established anywhere in the US. All it takes is a group of patriotic individuals who believe that this country’s future depends on adults passing their heritage on to future generations.
Lest We Forget
5512 Ivy Drive
Stevensville, MI 49127