WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Jim Percoco is on a mission, enlisting his former students and current West Springfield High School seniors to do what hasn't been done before: document every living WWII veteran on camera.
Jim Percoco told us,"Sure, we've interviewed Vietnam Veterans at the Vietnam Memorial, Korean Veterans at the Korean Memorial but it's never been done in a systematic way, to interview and catalog men and women at their memorial. It's never been done before."
Percoco spent 32 years as a history teacher at West Springfield High School. Last summer he came up with the idea of partnering with Honor Flight and interviewing the WWII veterans who fly in to Washington. The idea has taken off. In less than a year Percoco's team of students have talked with 350 veterans, their goal is to interview every WWII veteran until there aren't any more left.
Percoco may have retired from the Fairfax Co School system but he hasn't stopped teaching. Friends of the National World War II Memorial ended up hiring him to be the Memorial's educational director.
You'll find Heidi Abou-Ghaida, a West Springfield H.S. senior at the memorial on most weekends. She's spent nearly a year on the project.
"I was in Mr. Percoco's class and he can even tell you I wasn't interested in WWII or any of it. Once he asked me to be in this project. It just really opened my eyes. I thought this is bad because I need to know my history and we don't want to repeat history."
There are about 2 million World War II Veterans still alive. It's a race against time with each passing day we lose anywhere from 600-1000 WWII heroes.
Percoco told us, "It's crucial to get these stories as each slips away that's a piece of WWII history that no longer accessible.
Retired Senator Bob Dole was interviewed last year by the students and on Saturday he stopped by the memorial he helped to build.
"It's surprising how many young people don't know anything about WWII and what they can learn from these soldiers, old guys as I like to say," he said.
Abou-Ghaida shared, "I don't like to cry, but it really does make me cry because what they did at our age is unbelievable. I can't imagine going to war at my age. I'm thinking about the people who died for us who served for us because this Memorial Day is not only for those living now but who took their lives for us. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for them. I pray every day and thank them for it."