A California man is trying to capture history before it fades away.
Rishi Sharma wants to interview as many living World War II combat veterans as he can to document their stories. Since beginning his quest four years ago, Sharma, 20, has traveled to 45 states and Canada and has interviewed 870 veterans, CNN reported.
"They've given us the world that we have," the Agoura resident told CNN. "It's truly amazing."
Sharma is facing a daunting task. According to the the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were still alive in 2017. The youngest of them are in their late eighties, and some are more than 100 years old. The VA estimates an average of 362 of them die each day, CNN reported.
Sharma was a sophomore in high school when he began his project. He first interviewed a decorated veteran, Lyle Bouck, whose outmanned unit had held off a German battalion during the Battle of the Bulge, CNN reported.
Sharma then began biking to retirement homes to visit veterans in his hometown.
He records the interviews on video and burns them to DVDs, which he gives to the veterans, CNN reported. He also has begun posting the interviews to his YouTube channel.
In 2016, Sharma founded Heroes of the Second World War, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving interviews with WWII combat veterans for future generations. He also set up a GoFundMe account to pay his expenses. CNN reported. So far,he has raised more than $182,000, which helps pay for his travel expenses and video equipment.
His age prevents Sharma from renting cars or checking into many motels.
"I live out of the car when I'm on the road," he told CNN. "(It) makes my job a lot harder."
Sharma realizes he cannot interview every surviving veteran, so he doesn’t mind a little help. He told CNN that anyone who is interested in his work can contact WWII vets in their communities and record their stories.
"We don't need to use iPhones to take selfies," Sharma said. "We can actually document history with them."
Cox Media Group