NEW ORLEANS — Every day, retired United States Marine Corp staff sergeant Michael Gonzales takes visitors of the National World War Two Museum through the museum’s sprawling galleries. He is one of many veterans who work there that give visitors a unique perspective of being taken around the museum by a veteran story-teller.
“I love telling the story about the war that changed the world. In the Pacific, nobody was safe. The medical people that were there, including the nurses and the doctors, were prime targets for the Japanese,” says Gonzales.
Michael is too young to have participated in WWII, but all wars and events in history are connected. When WWII ended, unfinished business led to subsequent military conflict and 30 years after World War II was over, Michael Gonzales Would find himself on military tours in Okinawa Japan. He was stepping on some of the same footsteps of the World War II Veterans that came before him.
Because of WWII, the United States entered Vietnam fighting communism. Michael Gonzales explains saying, “situations that happened in WWII carried and transitioned over. I went to Okinawa two different times. I got to go overseas twice. This is part of the track unit I was with. I was amidst small villages with a number of signs there that said unexploded ordinance from WWII; do not enter.”
Veterans who continue to tell the history are important. In 2022, 167,284 World War II veterans are alive out of what was once 16 million. As veterans continue to age, newer generations of veterans, like Michael Gonzales are taking charge of the story and securing that the WWII legacy lives on.
“The mission statement here at the World War Two Museum, is to bring the American Experience of the war that changed the world. We strive to show, how it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. We want all generations to be able to look at this. We allow visitors to make that personal connection,” says Michael Gonzales.