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South Coast College Class Helping To Document Almost Forgotten Part Of History

U.S. soldiers in the trenches of France in 1917

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, which many called “The Great War.” An estimated 16 million people died over a four year period.

Time has caught up with those who fought in World War I.  They are all gone. And, the same thing is happening to their children, who are now in their late 80’s and 90’s.  A Ventura County college class studying World War I is getting some of those stories from some of the surviving relatives.

Among those being interviewed are about 10 people who live at the University Village retirement home in Thousand Oaks.

Ron Soderquist is among those being interviewed by students in Dr. Michaela Reaves “World War I and America” class at California Lutheran University, in Thousand Oaks. Soderquist says it was hard to get his father to talk about his wartime experiences, and he regrets he didn’t press him on it more. But, he says his father talked about being gassed while fighting in the trenches.

Several students are interviewing the first group of University Village seniors whose parents were involved in World War I. About 20 people will be interviewed overall.

Tyler Loftquist, who’s one of the students taking part in the project, and is interviewing Soderquist, says it’s amazing to hear stories from the people who have direct knowledge, rather than out of a history book.

At another table, students are interviewing Maryann Schall, whose father Harry Stoltz served in the military in both World Wars I and II. She pulls some faded handwritten letters out of a plastic bag, and says they say a lot about what it was like to be a 17 or 18 year old being sent into combat halfway around the world.

Ernie Sandlin, who is the Director of Marketing for University Village, says this pairing of UV’s residents and students from nearby CLU is giving a younger generation insight into something you’d normally only find in history books.

The semester long program is using funds provided by the Library of America, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  CLU is the parent of KCLU radio.

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