- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

The “Greatest Generation” made quite an impression on the younger generation this weekend on the Mall.

Several children and young adults on the Mall yesterday said the World War II veterans’ stories and jokes have made history come alive for them.

“One man told me he drove Gen. [George S.] Patton across enemy lines during the war,” said Casey Scott, 10, his eyes widening. “He did it at night with his headlights on. I’m going to remember that story.”

Karen Scott of Mason Neck, Va., said her son’s interest in World War II was sparked by his grandfather, a Navy veteran who attended Saturday’s dedication of the National World War II Memorial, and by his father, James, a Vietnam War veteran.

“In first grade, [Casey] kept bringing home a book called ‘Aircraft Carriers’ from the school library,” Mrs. Scott said. “He was the only kid in school who checked out that book.”

Casey recently wrote a school report on Pearl Harbor and said his grandfather is one of his heroes. “I’m very proud of him,” Casey said. “He served his country in the Pacific.”

The Scotts were one of hundreds of families attending the last day of the Smithsonian Institution’s National World War II reunion.

At the “Family Activities” tent, children and young adults learned about wartime code-breaking, letters to the front and food rationing.

“I can’t believe they rationed things like sugar and coffee during the war,” said Stacy Boysha, 20, of King George, Va. “I mean, who needs that stuff? If they were talking about cell phones and computers, it would be a big deal to me.”

Miss Boysha, who said she was “along for the ride,” attended the festivities with her father, Joseph, 43, and her 14-year-old brother, Christopher. Both she and Christopher won prizes for participating yesterday.

“I’m just amazed to see how much times have changed,” Miss Boysha said.

Meanwhile, in another part of the tent, two members of the famed “Band of Brothers” parachute infantry company were telling their stories to a group of young people and families.

Edward Shames, 81, said his most memorable experience was parachuting into a barn on D-Day and deciding to “moo” like a cow to blend in with the animals. Eight men landed with him.

“They all looked to me because I was the sergeant,” Mr. Shames said. “I was as scared as they were, but I couldn’t show it.”

Mr. Shames also discussed his time on the battlefield. He recalled getting a gold fountain pen from his future wife during wintertime, when he would have preferred a pair of gloves, and said he drank after-shave like it was whisky.

“I should never have married her, for that reason,” he joked about his wife. The after-shave, he said, had “a little color in it, but what the heck. Vodka doesn’t have color in it.”

History teacher Sarah Shames, 26, said her grandfather’s stories are always a hit with children.

“He’s been a guest in my classroom several times, and the kids can’t get enough of him,” said Miss Shames, who teaches at Monacan High School in Richmond. “They ask him for his autograph. He’s really inspired them to learn.”

But Miss Shames said her grandfather did not tell stories about the war during her own childhood.

“Bits and pieces came out at the dinner table,” she said. “But I only started hearing the full story after the Stephen Ambrose book [‘Band of Brothers’] came out. He doesn’t like the hype. He’s always said that the real heroes are the guys who didn’t come home.”

Throughout the four-day reunion, children wrote crayon-scrawled “victory mail” letters to veterans such as Mr. Shames. The content of the letters, which volunteers tacked onto a bulletin board, ranged from “Thanks for everything” to “Thank you grandpa!”

Several adults also filled out the cards in pencil, writing notes to their parents or grandparents.

Joseph McDermott and his wife, Elizabeth, watched as their son, Michael, 7, drew an airplane on his victory mail letter.

“My dad was an Army artilleryman who landed on Omaha Beach and fought at the Battle of the Bulge,” said Mr. McDermott, of Reston.

The McDermotts said Michael, who never knew his grandfather, expressed interest in the reunion after watching Saturday’s dedication ceremony on television.

“I’ve talked with Michael about my dad and the war, but he’s still very young,” Mr. McDermott said. “Hopefully, something will stick with him today.”

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