WWII veterans attend Columbia Vets' Conference

Columbia College hosted a veterans' conference Saturday that saw former service members of multiple generations share their stories.

Inside a small dining room, about 40 people of all different backgrounds came together to have lunch and talk about their service to the country.

"I think it's good for other veterans to be able to share their experiences, just to see where other people are at in their lives and what they did," said Jim Coy, who was a Colonel in the U.S. Army Special Ops for over 20 years. \

Coy is currently a medical consultant for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and is known in military circles for his international lectures on combat trauma medicine.

There conference saw people of many different ages share their experience. The youngest person in the room was 20, and the oldest was 92. They all got a chance to participate in the discourse that took place.

89 year-old Helen Grahl served during World War II as a Buck Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. She remembers the atmosphere when she joined the U.S. Marines in 1944 as "can-do" and patriotic.

"Everybody was ready to work, we wanted to win that war. Everybody did something, and we were proud of things when they went right," Grahl said.

Grahl also lamented that over her lifetime, she sees that younger people are missing out on a quality of life that members of her generation fought and died for.

"It's different now, very different," Grahl said. "My observation of the generations today... it's not that they don't want to serve their country, there is just a different outlook on life," she said.

Grahl said she thinks the proliferation of electronics has damaged peoples' ability to socialize and connect with each other.

Some veterans like Helen Grahl had never been to an event like this. Others like Colonel Coy have traveled the world, sharing their knowledge with others.

The conference, however, offered veterans more than just a day to swap war stories. Veterans shared thoughts on everything from their views on civil society to issues reintegrating back into civilian life. With others on hand to lend a helping hand or a listening ear, no veteran will be alone.

Veterans who are interested in participating in next year's conference should contact Sean Spence at