Veteran documentary, monthly meeting used to help tell stories, find assistance

Feb 11, 2018

John Silva was drafted into World War II when he was just 18 years old. During his three and a half years of service, he buried fellow comrades, fought the German army, and drove supplies to the front lines.

Now, Silva is telling his story in a new documentary that is giving veterans a chance to tell their stories.

During a screening at the Senior Center on February 7, Silva saw the series for the first time since he was interviewed by Dartmouth Community Television intern and Dartmouth High senior Cameron Figueiredo. At several points, he took off his glasses and tearing up as he watched himself recall the time he spent at war.

The film produces a vivid picture of a young man grasping to stay alive through stories of driving supplies to the front lines with no headlights on. Soldiers were afraid of being attacked from above on trips to deliver food and cigarettes to people in France who were struggling.

Silva expressed his changed opinion about war in the film, and also paid respect to those who served in Vietnam and came home to no recognition for their service.

Veterans Agent Roy Oliveira, DCTV Director of Media Cynthia Marland, and Ellie White of the Dartmouth Wanders all collaborated on the project, with Figueiredo heading the interview.

Figueiredo was moved by a story of Silva’s dog, which he found and took in while serving, and the emotion Silva displayed.

“Sadness isn’t the right word but when he goes on toward the end about how no one likes war and how his opinion changed on war there’s an emotional response for someone who has been there and seen it for themselves kind of talking about it like that,” said Figueiredo.

Figueiredo came into the project without knowing any veterans personally, but soon learned the importance of their stories.

It’s a lesson also shared by Michael Fernandes, a production coordinator for the studio. Talking to family members who had served gave him plenty to think about as he watched Figueiredo, who is 17, interview a veteran who was only one year older than him when he left for the war.

“You don’t realize how many people have such amazing stories just within the confines of Dartmouth,” Fernandes said. “It’s pretty amazing because over the years we have done interviews with veterans and things like that and you don’t realize how many people in the community have had such an big impact on american history and world history.”

Oliveira also attended the screening, and already has plans to travel to Washington, D.C. for the Honors Flight on April 21. The pair have applied, and if accepted, will go on a tour of war monuments in the nation’s capital.

The documentary showing and Veteran Affairs assistance is part of a once-a-month meeting at the senior center with an effort to reach out to veterans.