When Brian Bergen, an Iraq War veteran, first joined Denville VFW Post 2519, he was fascinated to hear the members sharing wartime experiences. Sitting around the weekly lunch table, veterans from different wars would share their personal experiences with their fellow comrades. Although each of the conflicts was extremely different, the veterans had no trouble bonding with one another. It was not unusual to hear a veteran state they had never shared a particular experience even with their own families.
As time went on, a number of Post members passed or moved away and their stories were lost. Brian realized that the remaining veterans’ experiences needed to be preserved before they too were lost. As a result, he asked local writer Megan Roche to interview and chronicle the stories of as many of the members as she could.
Over the next six months, Roche became a frequent visitor to the Post and was very comfortable commiserating with a group of older men. She met privately with many of the members and asked each of them to share some of their favorite wartime experiences. Some of these interviews took place at the Denville Post, others at the member’s home. Roche, an experienced interviewer, had no trouble establishing quick rapport with each veteran and they were comfortable sharing even some of their most difficult experiences with her.
In the end, Roche interviewed and chronicled the experiences of sixteen Post 2519 veterans ranging from World War II to Afghanistan. In addition to the stories, she obtained wartime photographs of each of the veterans. Although there were other members she wished she could have included, she admits that this project was the most challenging, yet rewarding, of her career.
“This book was not easily established but I loved the experience and meaning behind creating it. As a child and grandchild of veterans, I know how important it is for these men (and women) to share their stories and experiences. Once they pass on, the stories go with them. I hope that this book lets generation after generation know about the important things that these veterans have done for our country,” Roche said.
Once the project was completed, the stories and photographed were published in a hard cover book entitled “Denville Heroes – VFW Post 2519’s Stories of War”. In addition to the members’ stories, the book contains a Post History and a Memoriam section listing past members of the Post.
The book now resides in the reference section of the Denville Public Library. As a footnote, since the book has been published two of chronicled veterans have passed away. Without this project, their stories would have been lost.