While the average high school student is out at pep rallies, parties, surfing YouTube, and partaking in the latest high school gossip, Rishi Sharma made it his personal mission to collect hundreds of stories from our nation's most prized population: World War II combat veterans.
Sharma sat down for an interview with CBS and admitted he used to ditch a lot of school in order to complete as many interviews as possible. He began interviewing veterans as a junior in high school where he rode his bike to the nearest assisted living home to track down WWII service members. Once Sharma earned his driver's license, his mission turned into a cross-country affair. To date, Sharma has interviewed up to 850 vets in 40 states.
The twenty-year-old admitted that some of the veterans he's scheduled for interviews frequently pass away before he's had the chance to preserve the very stories that, oftentimes, dies with them.
Here's what he said:
"It's amazing how much history and knowledge is encased in each one of these individuals and how much is lost when one of them dies without sharing their story," Rishi told CBS. "The fact is I wake up every day to obituaries, guys who I wanted to interview and I have to find out they died."
Sharma's family immigrated from India and while he has zero ties to the military, the compassion he has for America's greatest generation is unparalleled. CBS recorded a phone interview with Sharma and a vet to show viewers the nature of his work: "It means a great deal to me that you were willing to endure all that so that I could be here today." CBS reported that Sharma travels and sleeps in his car to complete his mission around the country," Sharma tells the veteran.
"It's nice to know that as long as there are World War II veterans willing to talk, there will be at least one young man willing to listen," said Steve Hartman.
To help Sharma help veterans tell their stories, visit his GoFundMe page.