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Legacy Project showcases war letters


Veterans Day is about honoring the men and women who served in the U.S. military. One man is trying to do that by honoring their memories.

Andrew Carroll is doing this by with letters written on the battlefield in "The Legacy Project."
   
"Dear Betty Anne, I saw something today that makes me realize why we're fighting this war."

"Written in April 1945 by a distant cousin of mine..."

Meet Andrew Carroll....

"...This was the letter that started it all."

He's talking about this letter -- written by a World War II pilot. It was on its way to the trash, before the retired vet gave it to him and it inspired him to create the Legacy Project -- a collection of correspondence composed from battlefields around the world. He's written books based on the letters -- and even a play that we caught in rehearsal.

"I wondered if I would really be able to use my weapon against someone else."

The notes, some beautifully hand-written, stretch from America's earliest wars to emails from Afghanistan. There's even this letter from a Staff Sergeant who wrote his parents on Adolf Hitler's stationery. And another scarred with a bullet hole.

"We have letters from the Civil War that are stained with little blood marks and mud; we have letters from Vietnam where the ink is streamed because it was written in a rain storm."

The letters often open unique windows into history.

"This is a letter that was written from inside the ship at Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941 USS New Orleans, dear sis..."

"....I don't know why I'm writing this because if we're hit with a bomb they won't find enough of me let alone this letter."

"The emotions are timeless. And if you strip away the dates and the salutations, you almost couldn't tell one war from another."

"But what about the wounds you can't see? The phantoms, the nightmares, the ghosts in your head."

"People who think that troops should restrain themselves are simply asking too much of human nature."

Just 20 years old, Bob Leahy was in Vietnam when he wrote this letter that he's since donated to Carroll's Project.

Reporter: "what would you like to see happen to all of the letters that the Legacy Project has collected?"

"Ideally, I would like them to go somewhere where they will be saved for the scholars of the next generation."

"And Carroll hopes that more people feel the same way. So far the Legacy Project has collected upwards of 90,000 letters -- just like this one -- that are being held here at Chapman University in the new center for war letters. One priority -- getting all these letters digitized, preserved and available to a wider audience."

"I really see them as an expanding memorial to the men and women who served and to their loved ones."

A memorial to keep alive these front row accounts of history long after the writers have passed.

"Write as often as possible.  Mail is all I have to look forward to."