Class project is catalyst for conversations with WW II vet
n Editor's note: Krista Platz interviewed Myron Sidlo, a World War II veteran, and his family, as part of her work as an intern earning her Master's of Social Work degree.
BY Krista Platz
STUDENT INTERN, HUBBARD COUNTY VETERANS SERVICE OFFICE
When Katie (Horlitz) Cook asked her great uncle Myron Sidlo to help her out with a class assignment, she and her family had no idea how far the project would go.
Katie and her classmates were instructed to complete a historical interview to include descriptions of personal artifacts, social activities, and significant events that occurred during that era. Katie recalled that her uncle Dan Yrjo had an interest in World War II and that her great uncle, Myron, was a WW II veteran.
As a high school student, Katie had little idea that the information and memories she was requesting were things Myron had decided to "just let go." Like many others involved in military combat, Myron typically avoided discussing the details of his World War II experiences.
When Myron returned from the war, he put his service memorabilia and records into a box and tucked it away. One month after separation, he was working full time and focusing on an "ordinary make your dollar life ... raising a family and ordinary other stuff." Myron was not interested in living in the past and his wife and children felt that talking about his experience and asking questions would bring up memories that were better left untouched.
Their perspective was "we want to help you forget, if that is what you want." Other than casual conversations with Dan in which Myron disclosed a limited amount of information or brought out artifacts from the box, thethe topic was mostly avoided. In reference to that period of his life, Myron stated that back in those days, "I wouldn't even tell my wife."
In 1998, that changed; Katie's project was the catalyst that increased conversations about Myron's service record. During Katie's interview, Myron's memories "loosened up" and he was able to talk about his time overseas. Dan's curiosity grew and he continued to ask questions.
Myron found that sharing his experience became easier and less traumatic. As family members expressed interest in Myron's history, he developed the ability to talk more openly.
Myron decided to entrust Dan with the box of WW II memorabilia including his awards and medals. In his role as caretaker and historian, Dan contacted Hubbard County VSO, Greg Remus for guidance on obtaining additional information. In addition to completing the necessary forms to obtain Myron's service records, Dan continued to solicit information from Myron and other family members.
From the records and personal interviews Dan and Greg were able to obtain information about the individual awards and medals Myron had earned. In the process, they discovered Myron was eligible for additional service related medals, ribbons and awards.
The culmination of the project was a display case showcasing Myron's "hardware" and letters of commendation. Dan stated that Myron's reaction to the display case surpassed any of Dan's expectations.
"There were really no words to describe it," he said. "I've never seen him that way. It was incredible."
Myron described receiving the display case as one of the most memorable experiences in his life. Myron expressed a great amount of pride in Dan's handy work and acknowledged the significant amount of effort involved in creating the showcase.
"I'm glad someone is there to take possession of the memorabilia," Myron said. "A lot of compassion went into putting that case together."
Dan summarized the project as his way of paying tribute to his uncle's military service as well as honoring the sacrifice and experience of all veterans.
Myron started out our interview by saying, "I am not a hero, write that down. I saw stuff where I can point at a guy and say, he is a hero."
In Myron's opinion, he was asked by his country to do a job.
"I had my orders and I followed them," he said.
He is proud of serving his country. Myron reported not feeling any sense of animosity.
"I don't carry any hatred for the enemy," Myron said. "It is over."
When asked about his advice for returning veterans, he acknowledges that talking about their experience can be difficult and recommends people tell others what they are comfortable sharing.
Myron also stated that he thinks any veteran who is willing and able to talk about his or her experience with family and friends should do so.
As Dan said, "If we don't ask questions and talk about it now, then we miss the opportunity."