It was 10 years ago that Colorado filmmaker Larry Cappetto first came to the East Valley to interview combat veterans for his series of World War II documentaries.
Now he’s ready to check back in with some of those he spoke with during his first go-round — those that are still around, at least.
“I know there are a lot of veterans out there, who for the most part, it’s the first and last time I’ll see them,” said Cappetto, the filmmaker behind the “Lest They be Forgotten” documentary series.
Cappatto is planning a return trip to the Valley and said he hopes some of the veterans he interviewed will be available for a follow up interview. He started the process a decade ago wondering how he could help preserve their stories before they all disappeared.
“It overwhelmed me to think that so many veterans will die every day,” he said. “In 10 years, who’s going to tell the story first hand?
“I’ve always been fascinated with time and time travel,” he added. “It’s like a doorway opens to the past.”
When he first began his project in 2003, Cappetto couldn’t find many veterans in Colorado to film. With warmer winter weather and a plethora of retirement communities, Cappetto traveled to the Phoenix area after appearing in a column in the East Valley Tribune about the search for stories.
“All these communities, I went all over,” he recalled. “I would start the day on one side of the Valley and end up on the other.”
Even now, the stories he has heard touch him personally.
“I remember going into every single home, I can close my eyes and remember,” he said. “My heart is full as I talk. A week doesn’t go by that I don’t get an email from a widow (of a former interviewee).”
For many of the vets he talked to, their interview was the first time they’d spoken about their service, Cappetto said. For many, these stories would never had been told otherwise
Over time, Cappetto has begun interviewing soldiers from other American conflicts — Korean, Vietnam, and all the way up to modern conflicts, he said.
Telling the stories behind WWII is more than preserving oral history for Cappetto. In addition to the 13 volumes of Lest They be Forgotten, Cappetto also speaks at elementary, middle and high schools about the importance of our nation’s veterans and the freedom they’ve defended.
“Freedom is never free — freedom is earned,” Cappetto said. “A lot of blood was shed on foreign soil for our freedom.”
During a speaking engagement, Cappetto said he always brings a veteran to share his first-hand account and meet the students, he said.
“They greet the vets, shake hands, hug and thank them for their service,” he said. “When you see the tears in the eyes of a teenager, you know you’ve touched them, that you’ve snapped them into a reality for an hour.”
For more information about Cappetto’s work, visit www.veteranshistory.org. Local veterans open to being interviewed for Cappetto’s documentaries, or schools wishing to have him speak reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-5645 or email@example.com
Contact writer: (480) 898-5645 or firstname.lastname@example.org