Monroe teen produces ‘Veterans’ Voices’ documentary for Eagle Scout project

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Nicholas Ferrarotto salutes the flag during the singing of the National Anthem.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Theo Blume created the "Veterans' Voices" documentary for his Eagle Scout project.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Carlo Carunchio salutes the flag during the singing of the National Anthem.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Theo Blume, left to right, Nicholas Ferrarotto, Carlo Carunchio, Charles Koppelman and Mitch Kolber.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Leah Wagner, far left, director of the Monroe Township Public Library, accepts a copy of the documentary "Veterans' Voices" from Theo Blume, the teenager who created the film for his Eagle Scout project.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Nicholas Ferrarotto salutes the flag during the singing of the National Anthem.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Theo Blume created the "Veterans' Voices" documentary for his Eagle Scout project.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Carlo Carunchio salutes the flag during the singing of the National Anthem.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Theo Blume, left to right, Nicholas Ferrarotto, Carlo Carunchio, Charles Koppelman and Mitch Kolber.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME
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Leah Wagner, far left, director of the Monroe Township Public Library, accepts a copy of the documentary "Veterans' Voices" from Theo Blume, the teenager who created the film for his Eagle Scout project.PHOTOS COURTESY OF GINA BLUME

MONROE – Better than what any history book or class could offer, for the past year Theodore “Theo” Blume immersed himself in the eras of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War through firsthand accounts of the people who lived it.

His experience has been preserved in an 84-minute documentary “Veterans’ Voices” that he put together for his Eagle Scout project. The project is the final requirement to achieve the highest rank, Eagle, in scouting.

Theo, 16, partnered with many organizations including the American Legion, Jewish War Veterans and Korean War Veterans to make the film.

“Veterans’ Voices” premiered at the Monroe Township Public Library on Nov. 17 with many veterans in attendance. Before the showing of the film, Theo’s sister Rachel, 11, played the National Anthem on the oboe.

“I chose the subject for my project because I feel veterans are not recognized as well as they should be,” he said. “I enjoyed spending many weekends hearing their service stories and getting to know them throughout the interviews and editing process.”

Theo, 16, explained that he wanted to create a project to inspire future generations and have a lasting impact on the community.

“Monroe has an above-average amount of senior communities and I see how our population is rapidly aging,” he said. “Five of the film subjects are in their 90s and time was short to document their experiences. ‘Veterans’ Voices’ recorded [their stories] and others firsthand to provide a lasting oral history record.”

The veterans interviewed for the documentary include Mitch Kolber, who served in the U.S. Army during Korea; Ted Maffetone, who served in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam; Charles Koppelman, who served in the U.S. Army during Korea; John Kozzi, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during Vietnam; Arthur Seltzman, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam; Bernard Miller, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam; Marie Thomas, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and Korea; Raymond DeVito, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam; Charles Dunlop, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II; Monroe Mayor Gerald W. Tamburro, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam; Shelly Bloom, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II; Herbert Goldsmith, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II; Carlo Carunchio, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II; Ramon Irizarry, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam; Sydney Hollender, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II; Edward R. Miller, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam; and Nicholas Ferrarotto, who served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam.

Theo said common among their stories – aside from the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, in Normandy, France, during World War II and engagements in Vietnam – “service forced [the veterans] to a more independent life, from sewing their own buttons to doing laundry.”

“Making this film felt like a reality check. It showed how soldiers made sacrifices to defend our country,” he said. “At the time many put their current lives on hold to join or be drafted into the military. I found it very meaningful to hear the war stories personally rather than in a history class. This film is a tribute to all of the men and women who served our country. Their experiences are now preserved for future generations to see.”

Theo said interviews ranges from 10 minutes to more than two hours.

“In my film, a majority of the interviewees were primarily in supporting roles and not in active combat during their service, he said. “This opened my eyes to the other groups of the military equally important. I also learned the reality of the soldiers who served in active war zones, which is much different from depictions in Hollywood films.”

During the process, Theo prepared remarks for various veteran club meetings to recruit veterans for his project.

“In one instance, the Stonebridge Veterans Club [in Monroe] invited me back for another meeting to hear a presentation about the Navajo Code Talkers. It was challenging to work around my school schedule, but a majority of the clubs made accommodations for me. Many of the veterans from the communities that I worked with were eager to share their stories when given the opportunity,” he said.

Gina Blume said her son’s project got the whole family involved.

“The Monroe veterans clubs were very welcoming to Theo and our family,” she said. “We were greeted warmly at meetings and many expressed interest in his endeavors. A few went above and beyond from working around his school schedule to acting as intermediaries for arranging interviews.”

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.