I’ve seen a series of different numbers but somewhere between 600 and 1000 World War II veterans die each day. Less than 10 percent of the men and women who served in that war are still alive. So, it shouldn’t come as a great shock that one of the men I interviewed for the upcoming Voices of War documentary project has just died.
Eugene Lusk was born January 18, 1925 on Bud Mountain, West Virginia. He died over the weekend at 88 years of age. I met Mr. Lusk last August at his home in Herndon, WV. He was a warm and gracious man and I instantly liked him. He had the easygoing manner of a country boy who was at home in his environment. I wrote about meeting him last summer in the blog post The people you meet ARE the adventure.
Mr. Lusk left for Europe on March 23, 1944 after loading ships. He liked to tell the story that he was sick 10 of the 12 days he spent crossing the Atlantic, living on peanuts and Coca-Cola. After spending months in Europe training, he boarded a troop ship (again getting sick) and eventually touched mainland Europe on June 6, 1944. That was D-Day. He found himself in the middle of Utah Beach. He was relatively lucky as Utah Beach was less heavily fortified than Omaha Beach. That was good as far as he was concerned because he wasn’t an infantryman, he was a stevedore trained to load and unload supplies for the invasion. That was his description for himself, but it was mostly him being modest. He saw combat, survived air raids, guarded prisoners and survived to come home.
Just after he was discharged and returned home to West Virginia, he met the young lady who would soon become his wife, Ethel. He said he saw her in church singing at an evening revival and thought she was beautiful. He walked her home that night and never looked back. They were married about a year later and made it 66 years together before he passed away.
Interviewing West Virginia war veterans for the Voices of War documentary has been an honor and a privilege. I have met so many gentle and honorable men and women who served their country and then came home to build a life—not just in World War II, but in every conflict. Some stories, of course, touch you more than others and Mr. Lusk was one of those people. After we had talked a while, he insisted I join him and his wife for lunch: brown beans, corn bread and all the fixin’s. Just what you would expect.
I’m in the final editing stages of the documentary. I am working on the final release details right now, but it will be out in time for Memorial Day. My one hope is the men and women I have interviewed for the project (and others who served) say that I got it right and the other people who see it say “I never knew” and then look for a veteran to say thank you.
Rest in Peace Eugene Lusk and thank you for your service.