CPL Alvin I. Fehlman Tribute

Tribute to CPL Alvin Fehlman

Alvin-I-FehlmanCPL Alvin Fehlman was a World War II veteran, POW and American Hero who passed away January 22, 2013 at the age of 92 years old. I had the privilege of getting to know CPL Fehlman over a 2 year period though my series of interviews for the Veterans History Project, National History Club newsletter and various other newspaper articles about his amazing military service. I knew from our first interview, that we would become fast friends. Each time we met, Mr. Fehlman was decked out in his finest American Legion clothes, such as his POW vest, hats, medals and ribbons with a big smile on his face. He was so proud! It was amazing how he could remember every detail, including dates and times of his war experiences at 91 years old.

The short excerpt below is taken from an essay I wrote on the First Amendment that summarizes what Mr. Fehlman taught me about life.

Gier, E. 2013, “First Person Story of CPL Alvin Fehlman”, National History Club Newsletter, Fall 2013, Issue XXV11, pp. 1-2.  Article. -    www.nationalhistoryclub.org/documents/Fall13.pdf
Robert L. Nasson, Executive Director, National History Club

Article circulated to 20,000 high school National History Club students, advisors and other history educators.  CPL Fehlman is an American hero who served in WWII and was held as a POW in five prison camps.  His service inspired me to write his story.  View pdf of the article "First Person Story of CPL Alvin Fehlman" - Pdf file

“In my US History Class, we study the major wars from all perspectives, so we can understand the causes of wars and grasp lessons learned for the future. This past summer, I had the privilege of interviewing Corporal (CPL) Alvin Fehlman, an Army World War II POW who was held captive in five prison camps in Europe. CPL Fehlman experienced some of the worst conditions documented during the war. He had no rights. He walked in the snow shoeless, starved, slept like cattle on straw in railroad cars, and forced to walk for 23 days along railroad tracks. He is 91 years old now and remembers every detail. When asked what advice he has for the younger generations, he stated, “Treat everyone how you would want to be treated. Freedom is not free you know.” He stated that we must protect our freedoms at all costs, because the consequences could be unbearable.

After my interview with CPL Fehlman, I could only imagine how the tables could turn if we were robbed of our freedoms. Without the freedom to learn and question what we are taught, we could become like those brainwashed German soldiers who killed innocent Jews or forced prisoners of war to suffer. It may seem far-fetched but CPL Fehlman never imagined that he would ever find himself suffering these inhumane conditions. But he did and it was “as real as it gets!”

So what does the First Amendment mean to me? CPL Fehlman said it best! Simply put, “Freedom is not free.” We need to value our First Amendments freedoms, such as freedoms of press and speech, and be willing to fight to preserve them for ourselves and as an example to the rest of the world. CPL Fehlman taught me this lesson and I will remember his words always. I will treasure my freedom to learn, question, and see the truth though my journey into adulthood. Thank you Mr. Fehlman. You are my American Hero! You will be missed but long remembered.