From the first world war to more recent chapters in Afghanistan, Highlands Museum and Discovery Center curator of military collections Matt Potter has been working overtime for a month assembling locally inspired stories of people serving their country during Christmas.
Potter will present his collection of stories, “Christmas at War Time,” starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday during a special holiday event for the community.
“It is basically a presentation about being in the military during Christmas and I had originally planned to tell four stories,” Potter said, explaining he has instead chosen five true tales which he hopes will remind people of why all Americans should have a deep appreciation for all military veterans. The final story added to the collection will include the experiences of local soldier Ed Ashley following the first Gulf War.
The stories begin with a familiar tale from World War I, which does not have a direct link to the local community, Potter said, but does speak broadly about the emotions of soldiers away from home at Christmas.
“It starts with the Christmas Truce of World War I. There are different versions of the story that say they played soccer or pooled their food and had a big meal or that they traded smokes until they started getting shelled from the back lines,” Potter said, explaining he has completed a tremendous amount of research trying to determine the true foundation of the tale.
“From what I’ve found so far it was a combination of the three,” he said, explaining the story varied according to the experiences of soldiers along a six-to-seven mile stretch of entrenched and fortified positions.
From World War II, Potter will share an unpublished account of the Christmas of 1944 as experienced by Huntington native Carwood Lipton, who was one of the soldiers portrayed in the “Band of Brothers” books and movies. Potter said he will also talk about the Malmedy Massacre chapter from the Battle of the Bulge, with the murder of 80 American prisoners of war including Walter Franz of Ashland, as well as memories of another local soldier who was among those who discovered the site of the massacre during Christmas.
From the Korean War, Potter said he will share memories from Terry Walters, who was a cook at a remote position serving hot meals to battle-weary Americans during the holidays, as well as Christmas memories from Vietnam War helicopter pilot Allen Pierce.
Refreshments will be served and author Sam Piatt will be present to sign copies of his most recent book “Men of Valor,” which shares combat stories from residents of southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky. The program is offered free of charge, Potter emphasized.
“We encourage the community to come out. We would like to spend a little bit of the holidays with them during this presentation,” Potter said. For more information call (606) 547-2607.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.