Vet's history preserved

July 28, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Wearing a weathered Pearl Harbor anniversary cap, 80-year-old Jacob B. Berkson leaned against a wall in The Herald-Mail lobby Thursday, poring over the pages of a book he said he has waited a lifetime to hold.

Berkson was one of several veterans whose pictures and military stories are included in The Herald-Mail's fourth book, "Our Country Called: A Tribute to Washington County Servicemen and Servicewomen Vol. 1."

Many of the featured veterans filtered into the newspaper's Summit Avenue lobby Thursday to pick up their copy of the book and retrieve their borrowed pictures and memorabilia.

The 308-page limited edition book contains histories and photographs contributed by about 330 local veterans, said Michele Wills, project director. A second volume is expected to be released in July 2007.


"This is their book," Wills said as veterans gathered talking in the lobby, their books in hand.

"We heard stories that they had never told anyone - some of them for 60 years," said Deb Lanzendorfer, graphic design and layout editor, who conducted many of the book's interviews. "We laughed. We cried. I've had some come in since the interviews to visit."

Berkson, who was 16 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946, and again from 1952 to 1954.

"The war didn't interrupt my life. It made my life. It gave me a goal. It gave me experience in law before I ever went to law school," he said of his service during World War II.

Berkson talked fondly of the cases he tried as a judge advocate general, his travels and his accomplishments. He spouted off dates and names, adding that even as he grows older, he never will forget the friends he has made and places he has seen. He is writing a book about his experiences.

For Bill Ramsey, 75, a retired master sergeant with the U.S. Army, the book he held in his hands Thursday was his own historical document.

"It's our history, and it has to be preserved," he said.

Ramsey, who is the national commander of the National Explosives Ordinance Disposal Association, is featured in the book. One image features him squatting beside a cache of captured ammunition during the Vietnam War.

To buy the book

"Our Country Called: A Tribute to Washington County Servicemen and Servicewomen Vol. 1" costs $29.95 plus tax and may be purchased at The Herald-Mail at 100 Summit Ave. Books will be distributed to area bookstores for sale soon.

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