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World War II Veteran Hosting Veterans Storytelling Program

Hartford Courant - 9/7/2017

Sept. 07--World War II veteran Benjamin Cooper has been telling his war story for the last 27 years.

Now, the 95-year-old West Hartford resident, who was a combat medic during the war and was present for the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, wants other veterans to have the opportunity to share their stories, and he wants the public to come and listen.

Cooper will achieve this through a new weekly program, called Roll Call, hosted by the West Hartford Senior Center. The first program will be held on Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to noon.

"I want to get as many veterans from any war and to hear their stories," Cooper said. "The important thing is that I'd like to have people who are interested in history or hearing about veterans and their experience to hear and ask any questions they might have."

Cooper started sharing his story in 1990. He's talked at high schools, senior centers, and elsewhere. He's described it as a way of healing, and said this program can do the same for other veterans.

"I'd like to hear their stories about anything that happened while they were serving their country. They don't have to have been in combat," Cooper said. "I think it helps to tell your story. It really has helped me. I find that every time I talk, it's a healing process for me."

The key to this program, Cooper said, is having the public -- people who aren't veterans -- come listen to these stories and learn more about history.

"It's an eye-opener for those listening," Cooper said. "They can ask questions about anything that might come up. Let's not forget the past."

Cooper realizes that for some veterans, it might be hard to publicly share their story. He hopes this informal meeting makes it easier for them to talk about their experiences.

"If they talk to other veterans, that might open them up a little bit more," Cooper said. "This can be a way to help veterans face the future. All veterans need a little boost if they are in a rut, whatever it is."

Cooper's World War II storytelling has always been about spreading the word about kindness. He hopes this program continues that.

"An act of kindness can go a long way to help with problems and help everybody for a better future," Cooper said. "I think that's so important, especially today. These stories will help other people, believe it or not. Someone always relates to something. You find there's something that relates to you and gives you a step further to face the future."

The West Hartford Senior Center said the program could be held every Monday, depending on the interest level. The program is free, but the senior center asks guests interested in either speaking or attending as a listener to call the center at 860-561-7583 and register ahead of time.

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(c)2017 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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