A veteran's story remembered

I was a professional reporter for only a year, at a small Kentucky paper called the Bowling Green Daily News. Probably the best story I wrote there was for Veterans Day, about  local man who spent almost the entirety of World War II in Japanese slave-labor camps. He was going to be speaking at a school on the morning of Veterans Day, and I was assigned to cover it. We were an afternoon paper, and  our deadline was around 10:30 a.m., so I would have had to run to the school, scramble for quotes, and dash off a really fast story. I suggested that instead, I go visit him ahead of time and write a feature. My editors bit, and I drove for an hour to a house in the middle of the woods in Muhlenberg County. I spent most of the day there, just listening to Joseph Sterner tell his story. The article I wrote began like this:

In February 1941, Joseph Sterner wanted a transfer from his cavalry regiment to a new unit, preferably one overseas. His captain said there were two choices: Puerto Rico or the Philippines.

“I said, ‘Well, I can go to Puerto Rico any time, send me to the Philippines,' ” said Sterner, now 82.

His captain warned him the United States was going to get into the war raging in Europe and the Pacific. He said the Philippines, then an American territory, would be one of the first places Japan would attack.

Sterner, who was 17, brushed off the warning.

“Everyone that age is invincible,” Sterner said.

That decision set him on a path that led to five months of combat and 40 months in Japanese slave-labor camps.

You can read the rest of the story here.