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Actor, Museum Team Up To Capture Stories Of Some World War II Veterans In Ventura County

Belmont Village in Thousand Oaks has a gallery honoring its residents who are veterans

They were among those who put their lives on the line for American more than seven decades ago.

Now, a historian from the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans is in Ventura County this week to document their stories.

Westley Dochick of Thousand Oaks has had a full life, with a family, and a career as a businessman. The now 96 year old man also has a near-forgotten past, as a sailor who fought in both the Pacific and European theaters during World War Two.

He’s one of a half dozen veterans on the South Coast sharing their stories with a national museum this week, in a unique effort funded by a well-known actor.

Dochick was stationed on board the USS Thornhill, a 300 foot long destroyer escort assigned to protect convoys of troop ships, and freighters against submarine attacks: Dochick says convoy duty was brutal, in that if one of the convoy ships was torpedoed, they couldn’t stop to rescue its crew. It was too dangerous for the other ships o stop. He says even when they dropped depth charges, they couldn’t stick around to see the whether their efforts had any effect.

Dochick lives at Belmont Village Thousand Oaks, an assisted living facility which is home to a number of World War II veterans. This week, a historian with the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is recording the wartime stories of the facility's veterans for the museum, and for the veterans families.

Bradley Foerschner, who’s Belmont Village’s Executive Director, says actor Gary Sinese is making the historian’s visit possible through a grant from his foundation. Patrick Steven is one of the historians with the National World War Two Museum, and the one who is visiting the Conejo Valley to collect veterans stories.

Steven, who’s a veteran himself, says he’s interviewed more than 250 World War II veterans in 18 states during the last two years. Steven says what’s exciting about the process is because he’s a veteran, and a historian, sometimes he can ask questions which have never been posed to the World War II veterans. He says many family members hear things they’ve never heard before from their loved ones.

The families get copies of the interviews, with the masters becoming part of the library at the national museum.

World War II veteran Westly Dochick says even though it’s been seven decades, talking about his wartime experiences again bring back a flood of memories. Despite serving on both the Pacific, and European fronts, his ship came through the war intact. He says one of the benefits of being so young at the time, he really didn’t dwell on the possibility he might die in combat.

The Belmont Village facility has its own tribute to its veterans, a wall of fame which has the portraits and the stories of its residents who served their country in uniform.