A 21-year-old American has set himself the goal of interviewing every living World War Two veteran from the allied countries – and he’s asked The Bucks Herald to reach out to our readers.
Rishi Sharma, who was born and raised in California, has spent the past four years travelling the world thanks to a phenomenally successful crowd-funding campaign, and has to date interviewed just over 1,000 veterans on video.
This week, The Bucks Herald caught up with him while he was interviewing 98-year-old Wilfrid Edgar from Haddenham, who spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese during World War Two.
Rishi explained how it all started for him:
"Ever since I was a little kid I've always been interested in the second world war. I'd watch the movies and read books about it. There's just such a surreal feeling that would envelop me. This feeling that you can have such a great impact as a single individual person. Each one of those combat veterans during the second world war have literally contributed to millions of people having a chance at a full and a free life."
The Californian, whose parents moved to the United States from India in the 1970s, continued:
"When I was at High School and reading books about the war I decided I wanted to go meet these veterans. I went to a residential home and was introduced to 20 veterans. I then started emailing reporters about what I was doing and a guy from the Associated Press followed up and he did a national story, and then CBS Sunday Morning did a TV story, and then I got $200,000 - I'm very blessed."
Rishi now has no other purpose in his life so it seems, and is free to travel anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat if a veteran is available to talk with him. He is very keen for any World War Two veterans in North Bucks to contact him so that he can add their stories to his growing archive.
As well as telling their war stories, Rishi is passionate about finding out about the lives the veterans live now and how their experiences during the war affected them. He relayed remarkable stories of charitable endeavours by veterans that he’s interviewed and told us about a 105-year-old who still rides two miles a day on his bike.
Rishi believes that they still have so much to offer. He said:
"The goal is for people to watch these interviews and be so enthralled by the immense courage and sacrifice that it took for these men at a young age so we can live in this world, that it would inspire people to go out in their communities and interact with these veterans. It's changed my whole perspective - you can't have a bad day after meeting someone whose arm was blown off."
Long term Rishi is unsure of what might become of his ground breaking project but one can only imagine museums and documentary makers will be queuing up for access to his footage in the near future.
For now, Rishi is focussed on doing his work purely for the veterans. He explained:
"My job is to do the interviews. We donate the interviews back to the veterans. We put it on DVD and give it to them. There's no money involved - it's just a thank you for their service."
The Bucks Herald is calling on any veterans to get in touch with Rishi. If you know a veteran of World War Two, please contact Rishi if they are willing to contribute to his remarkable historical work.
You can contact Rishi at: email@example.com
To find out more about the project, visit his website at: www.heroesofthesecondworldwar.org