Ohioan pursuing veterans’ autograph collection

Guest Column • Kyle Nappi

My name is Kyle Nappi. I am 19 years old and I live in Ostrander, Ohio. I have a big interest in history, specifically World War II, and I collect military medals, patches, badges, insignia, field gear and a very unique thing: veteran autographs. I have a collection of autographs from military veterans who served during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and the present war in Iraq.

I have been interested in history for over seven years now, and I have collected the autographs and stories from nearly 2,500 veterans in 20 countries. The oldest veteran is currently 113 years old and the youngest enlisted at age 14. Some of the autographs are from Pearl Harbor survivors, D-Day veterans, airman, POWs, the last World War I veterans, generals, U.S. Presidents, USS Indianapolis survivors, Holocaust survivors, and even German soldiers!

My collection began in 2002, when I received a biographical letter from a World War II soldier who was captured by the Germans. From there, I was determined on obtaining as many stories as possible. I have been to local VFW posts and veteran hospitals and have talked to/interviewed veterans. I would often go to local veteran get-togethers and meetings and talk with the veterans.

Then I would read newspaper articles about other veterans, out of state. Seeing how it would be difficult to meet every veteran that I have contacted, I would write letters explaining my collection and if they could help me with my collection. I began writing letters to veterans in my state, then neighboring states, then all 50 states and foreign countries. I have sent thousands of letters and thousands of emails out to veterans and veteran-related organizations worldwide.

Back in June (of 2007), I was interview by PBS, to talk about my collection for an interview that was to be shown online (YouTube). After that, I was interviewed for “The Columbus World War II Roadshow.” They mentioned that it was to come on (in Central Ohio) before some of the episodes of Ken Burns’ “The War.” You can find this interview on YouTube under “Kyle Nappi.”

I was interviewed in 2008 by the American Legion for an article that appeared in their August magazine. Here is an Internet link to the online article: http://www.legion.org/whatsnew/publications/ newsletter/story?id=635.

There have been several other people who have taken the time to post my request online and in newspapers. There are too many for me to list, but if you go to Google or Yahoo and search “Kyle Nappi,” you can find most of them.

I just recently returned from a twoweek trip to France, which was sponsored by our school. One of our stops was Normandy coastline, where I saw Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery. It was quite an experience and one that I will never forget.

So, overall, I am trying to obtain as many autographs/stories from veterans as I can to ensure that their stories are not forgotten. I get over two to five things in the mail each day, followed by 10 to 15 plus emails, fielding phone calls, writing up letters, sending out letters to numerous veterans, locating/finding addresses, typing up the questions, translating the letters (for those foreign veterans), etc.

I recently completed my senior year, after graduating from Buckeye Valley High School. I will be attending a smaller campus of the Ohio State University starting in the fall. I would like to pursue my interest in military history and turn it into a career (something along the lines of military historian). I am also considering a military career. I would like to major in either history or political science in order to help further my career.

There are so many people, my age, who don’t fully understand the magnitude about the veterans and what they did for our country. I think it’s inspiring to these veterans when, someone is asking for their autographs/military experiences, but also when the person asking is that of my age.

If any veterans would like to get in touch, I will provide them with a questionnaire, which includes some basic questions I have for them about their service time.

My main purpose for writing is to share with you that there are people from my generation who do remember the past and the sacrifices that were made for our country. I would greatly appreciate it if you could pass the word around that there are people who remember, along with the information about my collection.

I see my collection as a way of remembering the stories of our veterans to ensure that they are never forgotten. In March 2008, I was able to meet Frank Buckles at the Pentagon, through an invitation I received from the U.S. secretary of defense. Mr. Buckles is the last surviving American World War I veteran, out of nearly 5 million that served. Before long, the World War II veterans will dwindle down (nearly 1,100 die each day), and we must not only remember their stories, but also the ones who did not come home. “All gave some, some gave all.”

Kyle Nappi may be contacted for his veterans’ project by mail at 1890 Warren Road, Ostrander, OH 43061; by phone at 740-363-8095, or by email at [email protected]