In high school, Rishi Sharma made it his mission to meet as many World War II combat veterans as possible. He told CBS News’ Steve Hartman he would take his bike to local seniors’ houses daily.
“I ditched so many days of high school to go do an interview,” he recalled. When he started to drive, he expanded his travels to cover more of Southern California.
He made it his duty to honor veterans who finished their own missions nearly 80 years ago. He talks to the men for hours and then gives the recordings to their families.
Sharma said he does it because time is short. America is losing more than 200 World War II vets every day.
“It’s amazing how much history and knowledge is encased in each one of these individuals and how much is lost when one of them dies without sharing their story,” said Sharma.
In five years, Sharma said he has interviewed 1,400 World War II veterans.
“I’m still doing interviews almost every day across the U.S. and Canada, the U.K. and Australia,” he said.
He doesn’t come from a military family. His parents immigrated from India. He explained why he cares so much about the Greatest Generation, as they are called.
“It means a great deal to me that you were willing to endure all that so that I could be here today,” he told one veteran over the phone.
Sharma is able to travel around and speak to veterans with the help of donations.
“I have a nonprofit organization called RememberWWII.org, and I’m going to be interviewing World War II veterans every day until there are none,” Sharma said.
“I think that if we preserve the stories of the Greatest Generation, we will inspire future generations to live up to their standards and to uphold the values that over 400,020 Americans gave their entire lives up for.”
Sharma said he believes his efforts help give the veterans the respect they deserve.
“I think it gives them a sense of worth, to tell them that their contributions still hold value and that they certainly will not be forgotten,” he said.