- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Seventy-one years ago Saturday, Don Jakeway of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division leapt out of an airplane, drifted through the sky and landed in a tree in Normandy before fighting in the invasion that started the end of World War II in Europe.

Jakeway returned home to Johnstown, Ohio, after the Battle of the Bulge, twice-wounded, with four Bronze Stars and a collection of stories to share. He speaks at library events and at schools, realizing once he is there how important it is for him to tell his stories.

“Some of the (high- school) seniors don’t know when the war started,” he said. “They thought Pearl Harbor was a woman.”

With the number of World War II veterans declining (only three or four veterans are alive from Jakeway’s regiment), preserving their stories is becoming a greater priority.

In Licking County, Doug Stout, head of circulation and building services for the Licking County Library, is working to save these stories. He produced an 80-minute YouTube video, “In the Company of Heroes: Licking County at D-Day,” that tells the stories of Licking County veterans who participated in the Normandy invasion.

Stout said he found 30 Licking County residents “either natives or transplants who moved there after the war” who combined had participated in every facet of the invasion, in roles such as paratrooper or glider pilot. He interviewed several survivors, including Jakeway, and used past recordings and letters from family members to fill in the gaps.

The project started in 2011, when Stout began collecting information on Licking County’s veterans for a series of Civil War presentations commemorating the 150th anniversary of that war.

Babette Wofter, director of the library, said Stout would spend hours after each presentation collecting stories from Licking County veterans and family members about America’s wars.

“Everyone wanted to tell me a story,” Stout said.

To catalog Licking County’s contributions to America’s wars, Wofter and Stout then began a database to preserve the photos and letters they were receiving from families. It has 315 finished entries and 100 more that need to be finished before being published.

Stout said he gets new information nearly every day “often photos and letters found under a bed by families who had forgotten they had them.

Stout said he is not aware of any other library in Ohio doing this kind of project. If they did, his guess is they would find similar stories.

“My belief is, if any county did this, they’d be amazed at what they unearthed,” he said.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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