We need these soldiers’ stories

November 11, 2013

The name Cass Vincent doesn’t appear on social media websites. Not our Cass Vincent, anyway.

Our Cass Vincent, of Rockingham, is a healthy, rarin’-to-go 92-year-old World War II veteran. His age is mentioned here because of this: Simply put, we’re losing our veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War at a staggering pace; we need to record and tell the stories of the men and women of the armed forces. We need to preserve them for future generations.

So when Cass Vincent — our Cass Vincent — walked into The Daily Journal newsroom on Monday afternoon, we stopped what we were doing. We listened. We took notes. He told us that the photo of Tacloben, in the central Philippines that appeared on Monday’s front page of the Charlotte Observer after a super typhoon, was a place he had been shipped to nearly 70 years ago.

We stood in awe of his remarkable attention to detail and, admittedly, chuckled along with him at the things his memory, with memories 92 years and running, couldn’t quite recall.

Vincent, a Polish-American from Minnesota, was born Kazimierz Prusynski. Former Journal reporter Dawn Kurry featured Vincent in a news article on May 17, 2011. The portion of Vincent’s life he mentioned on Monday was a bit different than what he told Kurry more than two years ago —and goes to show we can’t learn completely about anyone in just one sitting.

Vincent served as a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy after transferring from the Polish navy. When he saw the front of the Observer — he knew, instantly, that the place now under siege by death and debris from the typhoon was once headquarters for the American military in that area of operations. Vincent served on the USS General A.E. Anderson at the time.

Richmond County is full of veterans. The area has served proudly in every conflict. There are, quite literally, living history lessons walking around town right now. These men and women are resources, their value to today’s youth not to be underestimated. It is these people, former soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, who should be invited to be guest speakers at Veterans Day events.

But one day a year is hardly good enough. There are too many stories to be told in only one day.

These people should have a forum to share their experiences. We have so much to learn from them, and so much for which we should be thankful. Here at The Daily Journal, we are grateful for the veterans we’ve met over the past two weeks and look forward to telling as many of their stories as we can.

It’s the least we can do.