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PR Students Pay Tribute to WWII Veterans

Story by Alissa Harle

Of the 16 million men that served in World War II, less than 10 percent are alive today. With a rate of 1,000 World War II veterans dying each day, soon all oral history of the battles of World War II will be gone. 

Working in collaboration with State Representative, Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville and 2004 Otterbein graduate), Otterbein public relations students paid tribute to two central Ohio World War II veterans, in their 90s, at a news conference, for which the students pitched the media, hosted and created all materials. 

Capt. Robert Arn (Army pilot and 1942 Otterbein graduate) and Sgt. George Peto (Marine Corps infantry) participated at the news conference, held at the state capital building. Both men are the last surviving members of their platoons. 

“I was truly honored to have the opportunity to meet these two heroes and hear their stories of the warfront,” said Rep. Gonzales. “Their bravery and contributions to the war effort have made a lasting mark not only on our nation’s history, but on that of the world as well. 

“I am so pleased that the Otterbein students and I were able to thank these two gentlemen for what they’ve done to protect democracy and defend our nation’s security.”

Otterbein PR students have spent the entire semester using World War II as a backdrop to learn communication skills and techniques, including interviewing veterans, writing profiles, drafting newsletters and creating brochures and media kits.

While at the news conference, Rep. Gonzales also discussed recently introduced legislation that strives to assist Ohio’s veterans by helping them find employment upon returning home from deployment.

Otterbein sophomore Nick Ganus served as the class representative at the news conference. “This semester’s projects made it possible for us to hear stories that we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to hear, which brought history to life,” Ganus said. “It’s one thing to do work in class, but it’s not often that the work we create is for the professional world.” 

Sgt. Peto served 32 months in combat, all in the Pacific Theatre. When U.S. forces stormed the island of Peleliu, of the 200+ men that began the campaign, 24 survived.

“The biggest challenge while I was in the war was just staying alive. Most guys were not that lucky,” said Peto. 

Capt. Arn flew more than 106 missions, each way, “over the hump,” he said. Flying over the Himilayas and landing on narrow airstrips was difficult flying. He delivered fuel and other supplies to those fighting the Japanese. 

Ohio has the sixth-largest veteran population in the United States. As of last year, there were an estimated 900,000 veterans living in the state of Ohio, and of that number, nearly 650,000 have served in or in support of a theater of combat.