To finish off this project, my partner – Ivana Vidal – and I put on a thorough 30 minute presentation to the New Mexico History Museum staff  and the Veterans Services in Santa Fe New Mexico. We ran through what the project meant to us as a whole, the process that we went through, and we had a little story to tell about each of the veterans. We talked about the good, the bad, the technical difficulties we had and how we have improved since then.

The presentation was very well received and appreciated. We got lots of great comments, feedback, and some really great questions. One of the things that I thought was so great was that our audience mentioned that we should take this presentation on the road, and share this passion of history and video story telling to the younger crowds (such as high schoolers). They really think we could do some great things with this.

What was really neat was when Secretary Fox (The head of the Veterans Services) presented Ivana and I both with a military challenge coin. He put the coin in his hand, and shook our hands giving us the coin. When he did so, he said “I don’t know how old you are, but if you are old enough to drink, whenever you come to Santa Fe, and we meet up…if you don’t have your coin with you, you’re buying me a drink.” I really got a kick out of that, really awesome guy.

military_challenge_coin1 military_challenge_coin2

Here are both sides of the coin!

I would also like to mention that we received a lovely e-mail from the marketing manager at the museum about our presentation/project. Check out the e-mail!

“I’d like to gush about two Highlands students, Jacob Erickson and Ivana Vidal, who worked with our curator, Meredith Davidson, on a project this summer. They gave a presentation about their results to our staff this week, and deeply impressed us. The work they accomplished with Meredith on capturing video oral histories of 18 World War II veterans around the state was solid and stellar. I imagine the patience and diplomacy they had to exercise in working with people whose memories weren’t always the best and in situations that weren’t always the best. In their presentation, they acknowledged early weaknesses and noted improvements in their technical skills. They were poised and smart and told evocative stories of what the work meant to them personally. We strongly encouraged them to take their act to other groups—especially young people—to share that passion even wider.
Most important is the archive of material they’re leaving us with. The time for capturing these stories is fleeting. I like to imagine a future grandchild or great-grandchild coming to our museum to hear the stories of their relative. What a terrific gift.
Thanks for all you’ve done to help prepare these young people and for building the Media Arts program into such a standout of NMHU.”

Overall, I really loved working on the project and talking to all of these amazing people. I have secured another project starting up in October, where I will be doing this exact same thing, but with Cold War veterans. The project will be at the Los Alamos history museum. Be sure to check out my next blog that will be following that project!! Thank you guys for all of the support as well!!!!

WWII Interview Part 10: Las Cruces Trip

During the course of this project, we scheduled some veterans who resided down in Las Cruces, NM. It was an interesting bunch of veterans, that much is for sure. However, with such an awesome opportunity as this was, it didn’t come without its consequences….but what doesn’t?

Overall, I think we did a good job with what we were given to work with. I thought it was pretty neat that even though most of the veterans we spoke too operated in relatively the same spot during the war, each had his completely own and different story to tell. Some would piggy back off of each other, and some would say things that would be relevant to and maybe even expanded upon someone else’s story. A good example of this would be when a veteran by the name of Stuart Meerscheidt, was talking about his time at an airforce base in Burma. He’s pretty sure that he serviced and repaired one of the other veteran’s (I forget the name) plane…and he sure got a kick out of that.

One of my favorite people, just because of his team’s nickname “The Bush Masters”, is James Webb. He spoke about how he liberated a village from “oppressive slavery from the Japanese” on Easter Morning, and how he witnessed this religious ceremony thanking them for liberating them. He also spoke about how his team earned the nickname “The Bush Masters”, which in itself was a pretty cool little story.

All in all, I thought it was a productive trip…now enjoy some clips of these fine gentlemen!

WWII Interviews Part 9: Herman Saiz

This here is Herman Saiz, he was born in Anton Chico NM, on August 10, 1924. He had a lot of brothers and sisters; his mom had a total of 16 or 17 kids (most of which died from diphtheria). He enlisted in the Army in the recruitment offices in Las Vegas NM, after which he was transported to Fort Bliss for a few days. He did most of his training in Little Rock Arkansas, which lasted for a total of 3 or 4 months.

In my opinion, this one was one of our better interviews. He jumped from story to story, and he was really gun ho about his service. He mentioned constantly that if he could do it again, he would…even for target practice (haha), he would join up! A lot of his stories, he would attribute his survival to the big guy in the sky.

His stories involve his trip to Bataan 2 years after the death march, some fighting and killing Japanese, his stories about getting wounded (he was wounded twice), what he saw and experienced when he was in Hiroshima, and a lot of other things. Herman was quite the soldier, and quite the individual.

“To hell and back!”

WWII Interviews Part 8: Santiago Romero

This interview with Santiago Romero is a bit of an oddball, as far as the project as a whole goes. He is not a WWII veteran, but a Korean War veteran. Still, with that being said, he led a very interesting life, and his time in Korea was very awesome to hear about.

He was born in Vandito, NM (an area around Toas, rather small population) on March 14, 1930. His family was a family of 5, with 3 brothers and 1 sister. He talked about taking care of cattle when he was younger, and he was paid 1 dollar a head of cattle, per month…so he didn’t get paid a whole lot. He also helped his father out on his farm/ranch.

One interesting little story that he told us was how one night, his ship spotted another ship way off in the distance that seemed to be coming towards them. His officer got on intercom and started barking orders, made sure everyone was prepared to jump ship if they were hit. He said that his ship would swerve side to side to help avoid/lessen the damage if they were hit by a torpedo…they did this for 2 hours. At one point the “enemy” ship was identified as their own, heading back. So…I guess the lesson here is it’s better to be prepared, than not at all…even if there is nothing to worry about in the end.

There were two things he said during this interview that sort of stuck out…the first of which was; You hated everyone…here you are far away from home, volunteering in a war. Everyone you know, friends, family, heck..even your pet, are safe at home, and here you are risking life and limb for your country. You hated them because they were there and you were here. The second thing he said was; “your best friend, is your gun.” You know, he’s not wrong…in the end, you can’t count on somebody else to save you, they are worried about their own life. The best you have going for you is your weapon, your knowledge of it, and your skills at using it, so in essence, yes…your gun is not only your best friend, but also your life-line.

WW2 Interview Part 7: Matias Martinez

Matias Martinez was an absolute soldier (pun intended). Throughout his life, he’s been beaten down, picked up, shot down, and dragged up – yet he is still such a strong minded man. He has seen ALOT in his years, and we were fortunate enough to sit and listen to his story. Matias has been all over the world, and back again in his time with the military! He had quite a bit to say, but I won’t spoil it all! Here’s a short clip from Matias’ time in the military. -IMV

WW2 Interviews Part 6: Paul Josef Hon

Mr. Paul Hon (thats H-O-N) was an absolute gentlemen if I ever saw one! His positive out look on life – past and present – is inspiring. Paul was a second class gun captain in the Navy, and had the honor of working on the original WW1 ship. the USS Whipple. Paul comes from Denver, CO and is the middle of 5 boys. Amazingly, Paul and all of his brothers joined the service – 2 Army, 2 Navy, and 1 Marine. Instead of getting drafted and having no say of where he went, Paul willingly joined the Navy and has since never regretted it! He was part of the invasion of Okinawa and many other small battles along the way. Here is a small clip from our time with Paul!   -IMV

This was Paul when he was “just a little guy”, as he would say..

This was Paul when he was just a

WW2 Interviews Part 5: Angeline Lucero/Viola Duran

To say the least, Angeline Lucero was a character. Right off the bat, you could catch her sarcasm and sense of humor, as she flung it all around the room. Angeline was a parachute factory worker during WW2. She was born and raised in Las Vegas, NM on Oct. 24, 1930 and has loved every minute of it! She says that she wouldn’t trade it for the world! Angeline grew up with 2 brothers and 3 sisters, being solely raised by their mother – her father died when she was real young. According to her, “he took the easy way out”. The gratitude she showed towards the Parachute Factory is what I remember most about her. She nearly teared up every time she talked about that place. For her and the rest of the workers, it gave them sanctuary and hope. In a time and place where there were no jobs – especially for women –  Angeline and her friends were thankful for the hard labor job that the Parachute Factory had to offer all those years ago. It was interesting to hear about how they made the parachutes – in huge sections – and then eventually stitched them all together. Angeline was a 4 needle machine operator – the best of the best! She says if she could still see the darn needle, that she would still make parachutes if somebody asked her to! 🙂

Right next to Angeline, we had Viola Duran. It just so happens that these 2 gals are the best of friends and roommates at Vida Encanta Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Viola was born Oct. 13, 1949 in Las Vegas, NM. She herself was not in the military, but her father was. So we thought it would be interesting to get her point of view from the war. Although she didn’t share a whole lot about her Father, other than that he was in the War and that he got sent all over Europe, it was evident that the War had a major impact on her and her mother, something that they will never forget.

It was an absolute treat to have these two lovely ladies sit down and talk with us! Here is a [semi] short clip from our time with these gals. Enjoy!


WWII Interviews Part 4: Robert Lewis Borton

This veteran was really a spur of the moment interview. We met his son in the hallway at Pacifica Senior Living facility in Santa Fe NM, who expressed interest in our project. He brought it up to us that his father was in the Navy in WWII, and was wondering if we’d be up for a quick interview with him…to which we said of course, the more the merrier!!

Robert Lewis Borton, was born in Hillsdale MI in 1923. In high school he mentioned that he was a member of the marching band and the wrestling team. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943, and served 4 years with them…he never saw any engagements or any action, and he mostly served as a musician in the navy. During the course of the interview he told us about a typhoon his ship entered, he mentioned his tattoos that he got while in the service and showed us those (one is an old fashioned sailing ship with birds above it, and the other is a Chinese character, he never told anyone what it means, and he certainly wasn’t going to tell us 😉 ), he also talked about catching tuberculosis and that he’s pretty sure he got it from Tsingtao, China.

One thing I found particularly interesting about him, is that he mentioned that his band and himself would bunk with the torpedo crew on the ship, and that he slept on a torpedo.

Here is a short snippet from his interview that I hope you will enjoy!

WWII Interviews Part 3: Ignacio Lucero

We had the pleasure to speak with Ignacio Lucero this past Monday, July 27, 2015.  He was born in Sapello, NM, on June 7th, 1923. He spoke a little bit about his childhood, having chores around the house and his dad was his teacher. In the war, he served in the Air Force as a cargo plane pilot. He would fly the route between India and China, which was otherwise referred to as “The Hump”


So far, everyone has something that stuck with me, and what Ignacio said…really packed a punch. When asked, “Say someone watches this a hundred years from now, what is one thing you want them to know about your time in the war?”, he really didn’t know what to say other than, “Nobody would really care…nobody cares about the war.” I found that to be a particular hard pill to swallow, as personally…I’m fascinated by the war; granted, a hundred years or so hasn’t passed yet, but I find the war really interesting. I suppose he does have a point, given the passage of time, and new wars will shadow old wars…but I find myself disagreeing with him in the regard that historical documents, evidence, this interview, the ones we have left to shoot, and any other record of the war would still hold as much value today as they would in a hundred years down the road.

WWII Interviews Part 2: Elvert Pooler

The other veteran we interviewed on July 15th was Elvert Pooler. He was born in Lewiston Maine, in 1925. A few years later, his parents packed up and moved the family to Winthrop Maine, and that’s where he grew up. He went to school there, elementary, middle school, high school, the whole works and graduated in 1943. While growing up, he not only worked in his father’s store…he also had a paper route that he worked at until he graduated high school. He joined the army as soon as he could, and he did most of his training in Fort McClellan, Alabama. He was incredibly excited to get over to Europe and start killing some Germans.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer: Elvert Pooler, a WWII veteran from Springvale, at age 18. Copy photograph by Jill Brady Tuesday, July 20, 2010.
Jill Brady/Staff Photographer:
Elvert Pooler, a WWII veteran from Springvale, at age 18. Copy photograph by Jill Brady Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

What impressed me the most about him, was his very extensive medal collection. He was injured twice in the war (first injury was a mortar shrapnel wound to the back of his leg and the other injury was a shot to his head that paralyzed the whole left side of his body…he recovered after a month, but that’s still pretty intense), so he has 2 purple hearts…or what is I think called a double purple heart (It’s the regular purple heart medal, but with a clover added to signify the multiple awards). He also had a French Foreign Legion medal, among others. Also, I mentioned that both of our interviewees said something that stuck with me, and he couldn’t help but say “General Patton was a son of a bitch, what he did worked and I like him for it, but he was a son of a bitch.”

image3-2(Some of his medals)

While doing both of these interviews, I believe that I experienced both sides of the spectrum as far as memory is concerned. Ruth Reiners was able to tell us story after story, and even went into some small tangents at times; we got a lot out of her. Elvert Pooler on the other hand, while being a genuinely awesome guy… his memory wasn’t so much. He would kinda sorta answer questions, half of the time they would be irrelevant, and then sometimes…he would forget that he answered a question, only to go off on a small tangent, and then revisit the question and re-answer it almost as if he never answered it before…that’s the age showing though, and that’s not meant to take away from how awesome of a guy he really is.


Last but not least, I will leave you guys with a small video of what I believe were some of the best parts.