Fitchburg teen connects with hundreds of WWII veterans via mail, phone & zoom

13-year-old Henry Schoepke's learning style is a little unconventional, as he absorbs history from those who lived it.
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 11:32 AM CDT
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FITCHBURG, Wis. (WMTV) - While many teens are trying to keep up with the latest trends, one Fitchburg boy is more interested in the past.

When it comes to who’s who in World War II, 13-year-old Henry Schoepke is the one to go to. His learning style is a little unconventional, as he absorbs history from those who lived it.

“It’s pretty crazy some of the things they went through,” said Schoepke.

For the past two years, Henry has contacted WWII veterans and other significant war figures, to ask for their signatures.

He also writes them letters and gets many in return, along with pictures and even war memorabilia.

“They are pretty surprised probably most of them. Some of them get a lot of letters, but not really from people like as young as me,” said Schoepke.

He even has phone calls with some of the veterans, to hear stories about their time in the service. Henry feels this is his way of honoring and thanking them for the sacrifices they made.

“I think that veterans do so much for us. Like they fight for us and I’m like here because of them so I think that’s important for their stories to be told and to respect them and thank them,” explained Schoepke.

“I like that he does more than just reads in the books. He goes out and talks with people and finds out their stories and the history behind that and that is something that most kids don’t do at that age,” said Henry’s Mother, Jen Schoepke.

Henry Schoepke shows pictures and notes sent to him by WWII veterans
Henry Schoepke shows pictures and notes sent to him by WWII veterans(Erin Sullivan WMTV)

His mission to connect with even more veterans led him to the Veteran’s Breakfast Club. The organization hosts virtual storytelling hours, where veterans can get together and share their memories via Zoom.

“I contacted them, and I came on a program to ask for autographs and I just kept coming from there,” said Schoepke.

Henry makes it to the Zoom meetings whenever he can and his presence doesn’t go unnoticed.

“He’s mature beyond his years and it’s impressive to us,” said Donald Nemchick, a Vietnam Era Navy Veteran, who attends VBC meetings regularly.

“He’s inquisitive, he asks us to tell him about our experiences and he’s just open to our input. It’s very noteworthy that that young man has the ability to dig into history,” said Nemchick.

Upon joining VBC, Henry met a couple of other teenagers also share in his passion for learning about WWII History. Sitting behind the screen in other states, Connor and Trey are loyal VBC members too.

“It was really nice to know that other kids are interested, because most kids I know, I haven’t seen a single one that’s interested in what I’m interested in,” said Schoepke.

Nemchick said all three young men are, “patriotic, enthused about what they’re doing, inquisitive, so polite and well-spoken.”

For Henry, it’s just the start of making new friends, young and old, and making sure no veteran’s story goes untold. “I’ll probably continue to be writing to these veterans until the last WWII veteran dies,” said Schoepke.

Since Henry sends out so many letters, the Veteran’s Breakfast Club hosted a stamp drive for him. He ended up getting nearly 300 stamps, all donated by veterans.

Henry also has a YouTube Channel called “Henry MRE Rations”, where he taste-tests ready-to-eat military meals and snacks that are sent to him.

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