Seventy-six years have passed since World War II came to an end; four entire generations have come of age since Americans celebrated the end of a harrowing era of violence.
Kayleen Reusser, a native of Northeast Indiana with over twenty years of professional writing experience, has dedicated the last nine years to ensuring the legacies of World War II’s veterans are not forgotten. She has been featured in multiple publications, including the former News-Sentinel.
In 2012, Reusser was working as a middle school librarian in Bluffton while still maintaining a weekly column with the News-Sentinel. Her editor at the time, Mark Miller, asked Reusser to interview World War II veteran Carl Mankey. Reusser gives credit to Miller as having had a large influence on her writing career. Knowing the importance of Mankey’s story, Reusser sat down with this Marine veteran, a two-time recipient of the Purple Heart Medal, and listened. “I felt like I was sitting in front of a living piece of history, and it so inspired me,” Reusser said.
That interview, accompanied by a fascination with people and their motives, set Reusser on a path that dramatically changed her trajectory. Nine years later, she is the author of nine books on World War II and has interviewed 260 veterans of the over 16 million men and women that served during the war. Many of the interviewees are from Fort Wayne’s surrounding area.
As an already proud wife and mother of Air Force airmen, Reusser felt called to share stories similar to Mankey’s. She said, “There’s been a little bit of a shift in my focus of putting these stories into books. At the beginning, I was just doing it to help preserve our military heritage, but today I’m really doing it to make sure we don’t lose our sense of patriotism and can agree that our country is still a great country.”
Reusser’s books, the most recent titled “Battle of the Bulge: Stories From Those Who Fought and Survived,” are written for everyone. There is no need to be a military expert to read and be touched by these veterans’ stories; Reusser wrote for the “non-military person.” She hopes that her work will help future generations appreciate the sacrifices that have been made.
Reusser has created four programs based on her research and writing and upon request, she will speak about the European World War II tour, the “plucky” women of World War II, D-Day, or prisoners of war.
In addition to finding her books on Amazon or at the Fort Wayne History Center Gift Shop, Reusser’s work is accessible online where you can sign up for her e-newsletter or follow her blog. kayleenreusser.com