For the first time in a long time, Fred Gehle’s wife might actually get one of her favorite rooms back.
"I haven’t had a dining room table in 5 years now. It’s been littered with paper. I always call it the war room...Eisenhower...Macarthur...all those big guys. All that paperwork..." says Jan Gehle.
All that paperwork has been a labor of love for Jane’s husband, Fred Gehle. Since 2007, Gehle has coordinated the Augusta-Area Veterans History Project. He’s put in thousands of hours interviewing World War II veterans.
"We’ve completed actually 767 interviews with as many as 100 volunteers over the last 4-and-a-half years. Most of the interviews have been done here at Augusta State University. Augusta Tech...at the early stages and we’ve been going more and more to the homes because, again, age is catching up with veterans and all of us as you may say. Most interviews take 30 minutes to beyond and the results go the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. We’re proud to say, this community, greater Augusta and beyond, we’ve sent nearly 800 to Washington," says Fred Gehle, of the Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society.
Telling the stories of local war heroes has not only been rewarding for Fred, but it’s also been an eye-opening experience for the veterans and their families.
"In one instance, I walked into an interview already that had started in Aiken. There was a woman who was his wife and two adult children and they were both sitting in the audience. When the interview finished, they said to me this is the first time he’s spoken about any of this where he was in the jungle of New Guinea and close to being killed on 2 separate occasions. He held all of this back for over 60 years until we were able to record his story," says Fred.
And once the story gets recorded, each veteran receives a DVD of the interview. Thanks to Fred and his loyal volunteers, the Augusta-Area Veterans History Project has been an overwhelming success. Those who work closely with Fred wanted him to know how much he is appreciated.
"And he has pulled it all together and gotten all the work done and all the volunteers wanted to say thank you to him and we didn’t have any other way of doing it and so many people in the CSRA said, 'you need to do something good for Fred', and this is my Good For Fred Day," said Judy McAlhaney, who nominated Fred for the Giving Your Best Award.
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