BOSTON (CBS) – Flip through the pages of “The Greatest Generation” and you’ll find unforgettable stories of World War II heroes. But, there’s one particular copy of this book that is unlike any other.
“The first signatures were collected in 2001 when I was in Pearl Harbor,” said Christopher Sanchez, a Gulf War veteran, who recently retired from the Massachusetts State Police. He has spent the last 20 years traveling to World War II sites and collecting veterans’ signatures in Tom Brokaw’s book.
“Just having their signature is enough to trigger- hey I remember that guy he was a B-17 pilot. I remember that guy he was standing on the deck of the Arizona when it blew up,” said Sanchez. “Just having that little piece can trigger their stories that we can keep.”
These stories of heroism, sacrifice and survival aren’t just being preserved in this book. They’re also being passed on to Sanchez’s son, Christian, who started accompanying his father to local Veterans Day services when he was five. Then, a few years later, he started tagging along on big trips to Pearl Harbor and to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
“What they did is absolutely amazing and you go up and shake their hand and say thank you,” said 12-year-old Christian Sanchez.
During that trip, the father and son also had a chance encounter with Tom Brokaw himself, who was amazed to learn what they were doing with his book. Brokaw signed the book, writing “thanks for preserving these memories.”
So far, Christopher and Christian have collected about 100 signatures.
“It’s amazing and I think it’s very important because one day they’ll be gone and who is going to be left to tell their story, to preserve their legacy?” said Christopher Sanchez.
That’s why one day, Christopher plans to give the book to his son.
“I want him to be able to tell his children and grandchildren about the Greatest Generation,” said Christopher Sanchez.
“I will probably buy a glass case. I’ll take it out only when I need to get signatures and just keep it there,” said Christian Sanchez.
But, for now, Christopher and Christian plan to keep collecting signatures for as long as they possibly can.
“With some of these veterans passed away you’ll never get that again. Just the opportunity to meet them and talk to them and hear about their story and preserve a little piece of them. It’s priceless,” said Christopher Sanchez.
Christopher and Christian planned to go to Iwo Jima in 2020, but the pandemic put their plans on hold. They’re hoping to go together next year.