What an Honor

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by Jennifer Tomazic

Sometimes, you meet someone you know you'll always remember and you hear a story you'll never forget.

I was honored to meet Bill Rossman last week for one of my Making Milwaukee Great shoots.

The World War II veteran has a mind sharper than my own. He still remembers incredible details of a tough time in his life and during an hour long interview (that's pretty long in TV interviewing terms) he recounted them for me.

It wasn't until about 20 years ago that Rossman even told his story but it’s one worth noting: his B-24 bomber was shot down in flight over Italy during World War II on February 14, 1944, Valentine’s Day.

He survived and helped one of his fellow airman live by putting on the man's parachute and pushing him out of the plane moments before it made its quick descent.

Rossman was taken prisoner of war and says he walked three months straight for a total of 90 miles in the bitter cold. He arrived at a POW camp in Germany a few days before Patton's tanks arrived to free him.

He's been honored with a number of awards for his bravery, including the Distinguished Flying Cross (the highest honor in the Air Force).

The timeliness of the story lies in the Valentines he and his wife, Alice are in the process of making. Each year, the couple collaborates on a homemade card: she is a talented artists and paints the illustration and he writes the verse. They send them out to the other airmen who survived the attack. He and another man are the only ones still around.

I knew this was going to be a good story before I even got there but never could I have imagined all that I would learn from Rossman. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, oftentimes we don't get to sit down with our elders and hear the living history that they breathe.

After we left the shoot my photographer, Tom Gifford, and I said could not get over what an incredible experience that was. We agreed that it was certainly top on our list of favorite stories and favorite people (Bill's wife and daughter were great too!)

I am fortunate to have heard Bill's story first hand, and I hope that you will tune into my Making Milwaukee Great segment this weekend, Saturday February 11, to hear some for yourself.

Thank you Bill, for your time, lessons, and compassion for history. I will never forget you or this story.

Run Fast Song: "I'm So Excited"-The Pointer Sisters

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