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Vet is learning to share World War II stories

After returning from World War II few veterans talked about their experiences. They didn't want to burden their families with the details and that's just the way people handled things then.

For about 30 years veterans fought a silent battle dealing with the memories. However, over the last few decades that philosophy has changed for several reasons.

For the soldiers it wasn't healthy to keep all that bottled in, so psychologists recommended they start talking about it. And for future generations there's nothing more effective than learning about history from the people who lived it.

In that spirit Richard Carroll, a Rosemount native, shares his incredible story of battle and survival with schools all over Minnesota. On Friday Carroll spoke to the students of Farmington West Middle School for their 10th annual Veteran's Day event.

This year the event honored former prisoners of war and purple heart recipients. Carroll is both.

During an all-school assembly, Carroll shared his experience as a bomber pilot and of his time in Hungarian and German hospitals as a prisoner of war. Although cut short because the program went long Carroll went more into depth in the classroom later that day.

Carroll was a B-24 bomber pilot. He was shot down over farm fields in Hungary. After landing he was shot in the chest by an angry mob of villagers who intended to kill him. The bullet hit his heart and to this day a fragment sits in his chest.

Local police saved him from the mob and Carroll spent the next year recovering in Hungarian and German hospitals. Nearly a year after getting shot down he finally made the journey home.

"From the day I went down to the day I went home, which was nearly a year, I never received a letter," Carroll explained to the cell phone toting teens. "Things were a lot different back then."

For Carroll, sharing his tale with younger generations is therapeutic. He said it helps him deal with the past.

And Carroll believes hearing personal stories about historical events helps the students relate better than just reading about the events in a book.

"It leaves a more lasting impression," said Carroll.

At 88, Carroll is one of a few World War II veterans in the area who still get around to share their stories. He frequently talks at schools and also involves himself in other veterans activities. While he enjoys it, Carroll said he will have to taper down.

"There are other things to do," he said.