WWII documentarian makes stop in Beaumont

WWII documentarian makes stop in Beaumont

“I’ve always been interested in World War II, but I wanted to get a better understanding of what these guys really went through,” says 19-year-old Rishi Sharma of Los Angeles.

“About a year and a half ago,” he said, “I started riding my bike to senior homes to talk to veterans of World War II, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Sharma then founded Heroes of the Second World War, a nonprofit outlet to pursue the teen’s mission to “interview at least one World War II combat veteran every single day until the last one passes away.”

Unfortunately, Sharma doesn’t think he’ll have long to work at his task. According to his research, WWII combat veterans are in their 90s right now and 650 of these former soldiers die every single day in the United States alone.

“I have decided to dedicate my life to interviewing these veterans and bringing awareness to their sacrifices,” Sharma wrote on the website he erected to host his interviews, www.HeroesOfTheSecondWorldWar.org. “I have completed nearly 260 interviews so far. The interviews are on average four to six hours long,” although there is zero commercial value to the production as Sharma chooses to only provide a DVD for the veteran’s use.

Sharma said he likes to keep his interviews confidential unless the interviewee expressly wants it otherwise.

“I want to give these veterans the opportunity to talk in a censor-free setting,” Sharma said, adding that veterans frequently tell him things they say they have never told another living soul. “They can tell me these things, and I’m not family, or friends, and I’m not there to judge. I just give them the opportunity to say things they never get to say.”

Which was the case when Sharma arrived in Beaumont on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to interview 92-year-old World War II, veteran Arlie Ray Horn.

“At 19, he was the same age I am when he went into combat,” Sharma said of the Southeast Texan. “I don’t think he’d be too comfortable with me talking about the kind of things we talked about. But I do want to say that I got a much better understanding of just how brutal war is, and how amazing it is that these 19-year-old kids are literally the ones who saved the world.”

According to the Sharma, he is ashamed that more people aren’t seeking out the company of World War II combat vets.

“I think people ought to get off their butts and go into the senior homes and look at these men eye to eye and learn from them before they’re gone,” he said. “There ought to be a line of people wanting to listen, talk with and learn from these heroes.”

Sharma says everyone could, and should, seek out our local World War II vets at senior living facilities, hospices and senior centers.

“We need to understand the reason we are so lucky today is because real people had to fight, and real people had to die,” he said. “They need to seek out these World War II veterans because once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Sharma said that anyone can submit a World War II combat veteran for interview through the nonprofit website at HeroesOfTheSecondWorldWar.org or via phone at (818) 510-2892.

“These men are my biggest heroes and my kindred spirits, as they are the only people who I truly enjoy talking to and learning from hours on end,” Sharma said. “I want them to know how grateful I am for the sacrifices they have made, which has allowed me a chance at a good life.”