BOUNTIFUL—It’s not often that a high school student connects with someone who served in World War II – except maybe through the pages of a textbook. Heather Mills did just that and decided to write her own book about those veterans’ experiences.
Mills, a Woods Cross High Social Studies Sterling Scholar and 2016 graduate, published “Remember the Heroes,” a compilation of interviews with local World War II veterans for her Girl Scout Gold Project.
“I’d been trying to find a project for Girl Scouts.It had to have a sustainable impact that would continue on,” said Mills. “I was sitting in my history class and the teacher said something about how most vets from WWII are gone or going fast. I had an epiphany. My grandpas had served but passed away when I was in the fifth grade and I didn’t think to ask them” about their service.
She started thinking of writing a book to get those experiences down before it was too late. “I wanted to know what those who served thought,” she said. “I started trying to find veterans but realized it was difficult. I set my grandmas on the loose to find vets. Many had passed away, which was kind of sad. I found one but he passed away before I could do the interview. Another man passed away about a month before the book was published.”
Mills pressed on and talked to veterans about their experiences with different sides of the military, what they thought of the war and their perspective. “Some of the stories were hard to hear,” she said. “Today, we’re not worried about bombs being dropped or our father being drafted.”
A Bountiful veteran she interviewed served as a fire marshal in London and saved the lives of five men. He was sent to occupied Germany where he was told not to make friends with the locals. However, he saw a woman with children and decided to give her some candy. Later, he found out that soldiers had gone to her home and confiscated the candy. He regretted not seeing her again to apologize for putting her family in jeopardy.
Another story was on the lighter side. The ship the veteran was serving on in Iceland didn’t qualify for an ice cream machine but he thought it would boost morale among his men so he bartered and fought until he got the machine.
Mills has given excerpts of the book to Davis School District enrichment teachers to use in their curriculum and the book is available at Barnes & Noble and at Amazon.com.
“I’ve given copies to the veterans and their families and I hope to get copies to the libraries too,” she said. “I’m hoping to release a second edition if I can get more interviews.”
In the meantime, Mills is in college studying chemical engineering and minoring in the Arabic language. “I thought I wanted to learn the language and connect with a refugee family I knew who spoke it,” she said.
Mills is looking for more veterans to interview for a future book and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I hope the book will make people take the time to appreciate veterans’ service to our nation.”