(KTLA) – A local man has made it his life’s work to document the stories of veterans from World War II from around the globe while the few remaining alive are able to tell their stories.
Southern California native Rishi Sharma said he has always had a passion for the history of World War II. What started out as a high school project, speaking with veterans about their days in combat, turned into an adventurous career that’s taken him around the world.
“We’ve done interviews in Canada, all over the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, the Netherlands,” he told KTLA’s Kareen Wynter.
A project seven years in the making, the 25-year-old continues to spotlight these unsung surviving heroes, some of whom are telling their stories for the very first time.
On a recent morning in Westlake Village, Sharma’s old neighborhood, he was reconnecting retired Army Staff Sergeant Jack Moran. Sharma first met the now 98-year-old World War II veteran when he was in high school, riding his bike over to Moran’s home to casually chat about the war.
Since then, the 25-year-old has professionally interviewed more than 2,100 World War II veterans. He is also head of the nonprofit Remember World War II, which has its own YouTube channel filled with veterans’ interviews.
Sharma’s work, which is entirely fueled by donations, is shared with veterans and their families and the footage is also made available to universities schools around the globe.
“All World War II veterans are in their 90s and 100s,” Sharma explained. “The youngest combat veteran is 96, so time is of the essence when it comes to capturing their stories.”
The young documentarian said the interviews make veterans feel appreciated when someone as young as he is cares about what they went through.
Moran enlisted in the Army when he was 17. He and another soldier from his platoon were the only ones to make it home.
“Being a part of society, contributing at this age, I never dreamt I would,” Moran said of the interviews he’s done with Sharma. “It makes me feel good because I’m making an impression on people.”
Sharma said the veteran’s filmed testimonies are, in a sense, giving them the opportunity to live forever.
“Their great grandkids will know the way they look, the way they talk, all their intricate characteristics. It really preserves them for eternity,” he said.
His passport battered from the extensive travels, the 25-year-old said he is just getting started.
“I’m serious when I say I’m going to be interviewing World War II veterans until none of them are left,” Sharma said.
The 25-year-old said he’s not just focused on the numbers, but finding their names so that he can ensure the so-called Greatest Generation is never forgotten.
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