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GrassRoots TV honors veterans with marathon storytelling broadcast

Nov 10, 2015

Colonel Dick Merritt, left, interviews longtime Aspen resident Kurt Bresnitz about his experiences before, during, and after World War II.
Credit GrassRoots TV screenshot

GrassRoots TV is broadcasting twenty-four hours of veteran interviews to celebrate Veterans Day on Wednesday. The conversations have been recorded over the last several years as part of the Roaring Fork Veterans History Project, which started in 2007 and has included more than sixty veterans.

Marine Colonel Dick Merritt was a key player in starting it the archiving effort. “We interview local veterans in the Valley from Glenwood, [to] all the way up [in Aspen],” he said Tuesday, “with a special emphasis on the at-risk, older veterans.” Merritt, who’s a fixture in the veterans community in the Roaring Fork Valley, served for decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, including the Vietnam War.

Merritt continues to do most of the interviews for the archives. “The one that stands out in my mind is Kurt Bresnitz,” he ponders. “Kurt is 97 years old, he’s actually having surgery this week, down in Denver. But he’s from Vienna, Austria.” Recorded in 2007, their conversation is the longest Merritt’s hosted. Aspen resident Bresnitz talks about escaping the Nazi occupation in the late 1930’s, and returning with the U.S. military to fight German forces.

That eventful sequence of events included this harrowing tale of the Battle of Bulge, in December 1944. “I, being not only military government but an advanced scout, had a contingency of men that had to explore the advance of enemy troops,” described Bresnitz. “And it was very foggy that morning I remember that I was given that assignment. You couldn’t see but ten feet in front of you, and by the time I found out that we were outflanked, I was already more in German territory than in American territory.”

The Roaring Fork Veterans History Project began when Aspen’s fire chief started filming the long-running Veterans Day service in Aspen. He, Colonel Merritt and the Aspen Historical Society decided to create a nonprofit and partner with the Library of Congress. The interviews are recorded at GrassRoots TV, which helps burn DVD copies for family members and make sure the Library of Congress also receives them.

“We have recorded 10th Mountain history, and we’re moving through Korea and Vietnam,” said Colonel Merritt on Tuesday. “And of course we’re working through Iraq and Afghanistan veterans right now.” It’s harder to convince younger vets to come in for interviews, because they’re more likely to be struggling with PTSD and need more time to heal.

Grassroots TV in Aspen will air interviews for twenty-four hours in honor of Veterans Day. That’s from midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday.

Veterans Day services:

There are several Veterans Day events in the Roaring Fork Valley on Wednesday. The annual service in Aspen will be held at 11am at Aspen’s main Fire Station. That’ll be followed by a lunch at noon at the Aspen Elks Lodge. Another Veterans Day service will be held Wednesday night at 6pm at the Glenwood Springs Elk Lodge.

The Garfield County Veterans Service Officer says veterans are eligible for free coffee at Starbucks on Wednesday, as well as a free meal at Chili’s restaurant in Glenwood Springs.

On Thursday, there will be an 8am Veterans Day service at Coal Ridge High School in New Castle.