Over the course of the last four summers, I've splashed on the sun block, loaded up the car and headed to the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico in order to re-charge my batteries.



Over the course of the last four summers, I've splashed on the sun block, loaded up the car and headed to the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico in order to re-charge my batteries.
To be honest, bathing in crude oil amongst floating dead animal carcasses is not my idea of a fun summer respite. Thanks a lot BP. We'll save the poison ink for Tony Hayward and the crew some time down the road.
While pondering where I would set my reclining lawn chair and my styrofoam cooler for the week, lightning struck my senses so to speak and directed me to a destination right in my backyard. No, it wasn't my patio on Allen Ave. What better time to experience something right here in Louisiana than now?
So me, Jethro and Granny loaded up the truck and we moved ... we actually just drove down to New Orleans for a four-day mini-vacation. Yes I know. We've all been to New Orleans a million times and it's not exactly the greatest destination when the temperature is 10 times the surface of the sun and the humidity is akin to soaking in a bathtub for eight hours.
However, I appeal to your reasoning in this matter. My choice was to see the World War II Museum. It was my only goal for the week and my highest expectation. Sure, I took in the usual haunts (literally) and ingested more than a few thousand calories of fantastic Nawlins cuisine.
To experience the WWII Museum was more like a fanatical trek to Mecca for a history buff such as myself. If you haven't visited the museum, you must. Your family has to. Your kids need to.
Being the ever-opportunistic journalist that I am, I couldn't visit such an important piece of Americana without actually plying my trade, could I?
I set up an interview with the marketing manager of the museum and carried my camera along with me — set for a day of delving back in time when Frank Sinatra was king and Franklin Roosevelt was even more popular. My day began with a trip to "The American Sector," John Besh's theme restaurant located on museum property complete with circa 1940s decor and staff uniforms to match. If not for a flat screen LED TV hanging above the bar with a World Cup soccer match playing, I would have been transported back in time.
The meal was delicious, but it was only the appetizer for the main course. I wanted to experience something tangible. I wanted to know what it was like for my grandfather and so many veterans who roamed the French countryside near Normandy and Bayeux, as well as the jungles of Okinawa.
They paid for my freedom. The least I could do was gain some understanding of what they went through and how difficult it was for all Americans during that tumultuous time in history.
There is a 4-D theatre at the museum, which features an interactive 45-minute documentary on the war. Prior to walking into the theatre there is a brief 8-minute film to view in a smaller room. That's when reality struck me in the face like an ice cold glass of water on a blistering hot afternoon in the concrete jungle. I noticed an older gentleman sitting down. He needed help from a man I could only surmise was his son.
Around his neck draped a red, white and blue credential that very clearly displayed that he is a World War II veteran. His son had sons and his wife and daughter also accompanied the patriarch of the family. Immediately my mind drifted off to the beginning and end of the movie, "Saving Private Ryan." If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean.
Ironically, it's Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg — actor and director of said movie — who played a large role in making the museum and the development of the Solomon Victory Theatre.
As the film began, my focus was — of course — to take in the movie and transport my thoughts to another era. I could not help but think about the man though. As graphic scenes explained the travesties of war I wondered what he was thinking. Did he see any of this? Did he have buddies who never made it home to their families? Was he on Omaha Beach? Was he ready for the invasion of Japan before the atomic bombs were dropped?
I never found answers for my questions.
That didn't stop me from drying a few tears from my eyes.
I saw the man walk out of the theatre with aid from his son. I never said a word to him, but I thanked him for his service and for all he may have done or actually did for our freedom. I didn't want to invade his afternoon with his family though the journalist in me wanted to, but I thanked him — with a smile and a nod of my head. I hope he understood the sincerity in my gaze which spoke volumes.
Needing a lighter moment, I ventured over to the main museum building to view all of the displays and World War II vehicles. It was there I found another World War II veteran — John Capretto, an 83-year-old spitfire who remembers the last seven decades as if it happened last week. He was gracious enough to answer the questions of a journalist and visit with a tourist — all in the span of about 15 minutes.
I don't know what I enjoyed more — seeing the museum and the World War II films or actually speaking to a man who was there. In hindsight, I'd vote for Mr. Capretto any day.
My only regret is that I did not have my two sons with me, although that will surely be rectified in the near future. My other regret is that the John Caprettos of the world are leaving us. His generation is disappearing and when they do, we won't have the bridge to the 1940s.
That's where the museum comes in.
Frankly, it beats a lazy day at the beach any time.