‘Never Forget’ Event Rescheduled for Nov. 2

Posted: October 20, 2009 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: October 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

Editor’s note: The following programs, previously scheduled for Sept. 28, will be held on Nov. 2.

Often considered the deadliest conflict in modern history, World War II raged on for six long years. After it ended, the world realized that some of the greatest atrocities in its history had been committed.

As the last remaining veterans of WWII slip away, a significant piece of history is dying with them. Realizing that collective memory plays a major role in understanding history, the Mason University Scholars Program continues its “Never Forget” focus with events that celebrate WWII veterans.

Spearheading the planning is senior Megan Fowler, a history and theater major. After the success of the Holocaust Remembrance events that she helped organize in spring 2008, Fowler began planning for a reprise of the “Never Forget” program with the help of Erek Perry, director of the University Scholars Program, and Erica Hernandez, administrative assistant for the program. This year the event will encourage individuals to reach out to WWII veterans to better understand the war and how it continues to influence society today.

“After last year’s event, I received so many positive responses from members of the community who wanted to learn more and were interested in the topic for the next event,” says Fowler.

“Deciding on an event that focused on WWII veterans was a personal choice for me because I had a family friend who served in the Pacific theater. When he passed away, I realized I had missed the opportunity to learn from him about some of the most crucial battles during the war that helped shape the future.”

To set the stage for discussion, a screening of the first two episodes of the 2001 television miniseries “Band of Brothers” will be shown on Monday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in the Harris Theater. Based on the book of the same title by Stephen Ambrose, “Band of Brothers” is centered on the experiences of the soldiers of E Company of the 101st Airborne Division.

While the viewing of “Band of Brothers” was not her first choice, after Fowler began watching the miniseries and reading the book she realized the amazing lengths taken to make the film as accurate as possible. According to Fowler, seeing “Band of Brothers” is as probably as close to the real thing as one could get.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with WWII veterans at 7 p.m. in Harris Theater. The panel discussion will allow members of the community to listen to the experiences of, learn from and ask questions of living American heroes. Christopher Hamner, assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History, will moderate the discussion.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Members of the panel include

  • Mary Ann Heefner McKenzie, who served in the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Marine Corps from August 1943 until the end of the war in September 1945, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. After boot camp at Camp Lejeune, N.C., she served as a secretary in the Office of the Commandant, Marine Corps Headquarters, in the Navy Annex Building in Arlington, Va.
  • William Hanusek, who was born on March 27, 1920, in Mount Pleasant, Penn. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and was stationed in Forest, Va., with the CCC and worked building roads on Skyline Drive until 1939. In October of 1941, he joined the U.S. Army as a private. Private Hanusek was assigned to Task Force 6814 and arrived in Australia in February 1942. He served in Guadalcanal as a medic in the American Division from October 1942 to July 1943. During the war he was stationed in Australia, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, the Philippines, Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao. Following WWII, he served two tours in Korea (1947-8 and 1950-1), a tour in Japan (1951-52), a tour in France (1953-6) and a tour in Germany (1962-4). He retired as a master sergeant in April 1964.
  • H.A. Deck, who joined the United States Air Corp on July 15, 1941, as a second lieutenant. He served four years with the Air Corps Training Command. In July of 1944, he volunteered for “dangerous duty” and was attached to the Office of Strategic Services as a guerrilla warfare specialist. He spent five years in Europe as a counterintelligence agent. He retired in 1962 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

For the panel discussion, Fowler worked with Charles Lee, a veteran who served with the 443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and father of Geri Lee, a Mason employee in the Environmental Health and Safety Office. Although saddened by the elder Lee’s recent passing, Fowler determined to continue on with planning.

Fowler expects to graduate in May 2010 and hopes to go into museum public programming and education. She gained valuable experience in this area during her summer internship in regional programming with the Smithsonian Associates.

“I hope the ‘Never Forget’ program continues even after I graduate so that students have an opportunity to be a part of storytelling and collective memory,” says Fowler.

“Often in academia, students are used to just reading books and writing papers. They don’t realize that behind these stories is a human element that we should all appreciate because it is the experiences of these individuals that have made us who we are today.”

The events are sponsored by the Office of Military Service, ACE/Wal-mart Foundation, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Honors College, University Scholars, Mason Community Outreach, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Alpha Delta and University Life.

For more information about the WWII veterans events, contact Fowler at mfowler87@gmail.com.

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