By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneDecember 4, 2009
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The best way to understand World War II is through the words of a veteran who actually lived the fight, experienced the battlefield and saw the ugly carnage left behind by a blood-thirsty and threatening enemy.
That's the premise of a new book - "Through Eyes of Courage" - recently published by well-known military activist, author and radio personality David Carney and his wife, historian and author Judy Carney.
Through the stories of 26 World War II veterans, their book shares a variety of experiences from that war. Every story honors all veterans and the sacrifices they made. And to further honor the veterans, the Carneys are donating all profits from the book to the Tennessee Valley Honor Flight, a program that flies WW II veterans to Washington, D.C., free of charge to see their memorial.
The couple and some of the veterans featured in the book - including two survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack -- participated in a book signing on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, at The Huntsville Times.
"My interest in World War II veterans started with the registry of remembrance," Judy Carney said. "I wanted to see how many veterans I could talk with who were directly tied to the World War II memorial and I wanted to see if they were registered in the kiosks. With 16 million men and women involved in World War II, it is easy to see not all are on the registry."
Her concern with the WW II registry, then and now, is that many veterans have died before being registered or don't know they should be registered.
"I took the registry on as a cause of my own," Judy Carney said. "I wanted to make sure that all the World War II veterans I came in contact with were in the registry."
She started her quest at the Tut Fann State Veterans Home three years ago, and then continued with North Alabama veterans who participated on the first Honor Flights. She would meet WW II veterans, learn their stories and then use that information to register them in the registry. In all, she has registered 300 veterans.
"I realized they had a lot of interesting things to say. I tried to put their information down in the military history segment of the registry," she said.
But often their entire stories were too long for the registry. And when she talked with WW II veteran Jim Williams about his experience escaping from the enemy with help from the French underground, Judy Carney realized she was about to get herself involved in a much bigger project.
"When he told me his story, I thought 'Oh, my gosh, I've got to write a book with his story and all these stories in it. These men have a lot to say and I can help them with that,'" she recalled. "With each of these veterans, I realized there was a little piece of the American patchwork of history."
The book includes the stories of two Pearl Harbor survivors. With each chapter, the picture of the veteran as a servicemember is featured under a descriptive name for their role in the war - radioman, engineer, boiler-maker, machinist mate, lady truck driver, downed airman and private first class squad leader, to name a few. The book also includes a war timeline.
One veteran in the book holds a special place in Judy Carney's heart - her father, Clyde Popejoy, who left for the war right after she was born. She still fondly remembers her reunion with her father.
"I was 2 and a half, and I was playing under a big Maple tree in my grandmother's yard," she recalled. "I was making mud pies and I was all muddy and I had a big muddy spoon in my hand. I saw a Soldier coming up the hill. I got up and ran to him, yelling 'My daddy! My daddy!' Everyone from those times has a story."
Though their experiences were different, all the WW II veterans in the book were patriotic, determined, hard working and young - reflecting all veterans of the war.
"There are several veterans in this book who came home on their 21st birthday after spending three years at war," Judy Carney said. "Everyone in this book is incredible."
Some of the veterans wrote their own stories for the book. Others were told to and written by Judy Carney. David Carney wrote the introductions to each of the stories.
"We wanted to represent every branch of the service and every theater so that you can see the war all around the world," Judy Carney said. "We have a good representation in this book. But we are still collecting and more volumes are entirely a possibility."
Even though the book was completed and published in September, Judy Carney is still talking to veterans about the registry. She also checks veterans who have died and whose obituaries are published in The Huntsville Times. If they are not in the registry, she will enter them.
"It is so important that we get all the veterans in the registry," she said. "This is their registry, their monument, and it's about their sacrifice. This is an important part of history that needs to be recorded."
Judy Carney does admit she is passionate about the book and the registry. She is thankful that WW II veterans appreciate her efforts.
"When they see the book, they are so happy. There's been tears and just great joy," she said. "And there's been a lot of appreciation for the recognition."
But David Carney said interest in the book goes beyond the veterans it honors.
"This is a book about history itself and that makes it much bigger than we ever imagined," he said. "People are buying this book so they can learn for themselves about World War II and its veterans."
Judy Carney hopes the book is not only interesting, but that it also serves as a resource.
"I hope readers get a good picture of how World War II was conducted, the reasons for it and why everyone was so willing to make sacrifices for our country," she said. "I hope it gives them a sense of strong patriotism and support of the Soldier, and the sacrifices they made for our freedom and security."
"Through Eyes of Courage" can be purchased at The Huntsville Times or the Veterans Memorial Museum, or at davidandjudy.com. For more information about the World War II registry, visit http://www.wwiimemorial.com.