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Public radio to air veterans' stories produced by WVU Journalism School

Hear Charles Brown’s story Tuesday on ‘Aging with Grace and Dignity’

Charles Brown’s first bombing mission in World War II would also be his last. He was shot down over Tokyo in the waning days of the fighting and languished behind bars not as a prisoner of war – but as a terrorist, which is how Japanese authorities viewed him.

Brown lived to tell about it, and the 82-year-old retired attorney from Kingwood told his story to the West Virginia Veterans History Project – which was launched in 2003 by West Virginia University’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism.

You can hear a little of that story by dialing up West Virginia Public Radio on Tuesday (July 3) at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. An interview segment with Brown will air at those times on the network’s popular “Aging with Grace and Dignity” program. (Visit http://www.wvpubrad.org/aboutus/radiocoverage.asp to find the frequency of the station nearest you).

For the past four years, WVU journalism professor Joel Beeson and his students have compiled stories from the Mountain State’s more than 200,000 veterans who marched off to war in the 20th century.

There are stories of the survivor’s spirit, like Brown’s, and stories of triumph and tenacity among the state’s black veterans – who also fought the enemies of animosity and prejudice leveled by the people who wore the same uniform as they.

Pat Sergent, a producer with West Virginia Public Broadcasting who has worked with Beeson and others on the project, said the experience has been both moving and life-affirming for him – especially Brown’s story.

“Charlie’s story is amazing,” Sergent said. “No one here at home knew if he was alive or dead. He’s even got the program to his own memorial service. He wasn’t treated very well in captivity, yet later in life, he’s made regular trips back to Japan with the Rotary Club. It’s like he’s a goodwill ambassador there now. I think the guys who lived it realize just how futile war is. He’s pretty inspiring.”

Other stories will air this on summer on West Virginia Public Broadcasting radio and television leading up to September’s PBS airing of “The War,” by famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Visit http://veteranshistory.wvu.edu/ for more on the project.