U.S. Navy veteran David Woodland. Photo Kahn
When Alexander Kahn’s grandfather passed away, he had no idea his memories would eventually inspire a way for veterans to share their stories.
All Alexander Khan wanted was to better know his grandfather. Unfortunately for Khan the opportunity to bond was cut short after Sonny Shapiro, a WWII U.S. Army doctor passed away when Khan was a young boy.
In an attempt to familiarize himself with his grandfather’s legacy, Kahn embarked on a personal quest of discovery and family history, piecing together bits of information provided by family members and military records.
U.S. Army veteran and POW Sam Morris and his wife. Photo Kahn
“I was able to locate mementos and keepsakes of my grandfather and it was his service in the Army that was most intriguing,” says Kahn. “I regret the opportunity of not knowing more about his life, but I remember him to be extremely intelligent and witty.”
It was his investigation into his grandfather’s life that inspired Kahn to launch the web site, HeroesofaGeneration.com and create an online community where servicemen and women can share their experiences of military service.
The high school senior hopes this platform will encourage veterans from WWII to the present campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan a chance to tell their tale in as great or little detail as they wish.
“It’s important to retain the history of our servicemen and women,” says Kahn. “Each story is unique and it’s important for future generations to learn about each experience as it pertained to our history.”
While only less than a month old, responses to the web site have been good. Kahn has been marketing his web site in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, collecting stories from local veteran non-profits, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the VA Hospital.
“It’s been greatly by word of mouth,” says Kahn. “I’m hopeful that word of mouth and veteran organizations will help spread the news to other markets.”
Kahn reports some veterans have submitted stories while others have been added through interviews and personal encounters. “Once word gets out, I hope veterans from around the state and country will feel inspired to share their story,” says Kahn.
Kahn initially received some help from family members to get the idea off the ground but has taken on a great deal of maintaining and designing the web site on his own.
“I first shared the idea with family who were immediately supportive of the idea,” says Kahn. “My classmates thought it was cool, but my closer friends showed a sincere interest in seeing this succeed.”
After graduation Kahn plans to attend one of the military academies and major in history, and of course to continue growing and maintaining the web site. “I don’t want this to be a passing fad while I’m in high school,” says Kahn. “I hope to see it grow into something self sufficient and advantageous and become a source of factual history.”
While it was his grandfather who inspired the web site, his story is mostly still unknown. Kahn continues his research into his grandfather’s life and has petitioned the national archives to help construct his grandfather’s story.
To upload a story, visit the HeroesofaGeneration.com and click “share your story.” A form will load and you’ll be prompted through a menu of questions and be able to share in essay format your military experience.