In honor of Memorial Day, the Office of the Governor has released the following story. Click here to watch the video titled Honoring Our Veterans and Volunteers – The Story of WW II Veteran Zane Schlemmer.
Zane Schlemmer was a high school graduate, watching a movie at a theater in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, when he learned that Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.
It was then that Zane decided he would enlist in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper. He jumped from a plane on D-Day in Normandy, France; was later injured and hospitalized in Germany before getting wounded again in the Battle of the Bulge. And for his service, Zane has been honored by President Barack Obama and has a street and museum named after him in France.
Now at 86 years old, Zane — a World War II veteran and Kaneohe resident — continues to serve the public by volunteering every day at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery.
“The VA (Veterans Affairs) took care of me and I was so grateful that I decided I would come back after I retired and that I would work here for them as a volunteer,” Zane said. “The VA has been so very, very good to me. I owe them a lot.”
The Hawaii State Office of Veterans Services works in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to have volunteers help in serving veterans. Two volunteers regularly work in the Office of Veterans Services in Tripler Hospital and three others work at the cemetery. Many of them are veterans themselves.
“It’s veterans helping veterans,” said Gregory Jackson, OVS Director. “The volunteers are a critical part of our office … If we didn’t have our volunteers, we couldn’t operate to provide services to the veterans.”
As a part of his everyday duties, Zane answers the phone and manages the front desk at the cemetery. One of his largest projects and accomplishments includes organizing a wall of 800 bronze name plates of fallen veterans.
“By working, it keeps me mentally alert. It keeps me operating,” Zane said. “I looked around and I’m 86 now and I don’t see anybody that I’d want to trade places with. I look forward to going there every day. It’s a good life.”