While the students at Vinton Shellsburg High School learned yesterday that John Gualtier has countless regrets and things he has felt guilty about for the past 70+ years, he made it clear that he would still make the same decision he made at age 18: He’d join the U.S military and go fight again in World War II.
“We did it for the future. We did it for you,” Gualtier told the students before they saw the 13-minute documentary about his years as a WWII medic, where he witnessed multiple deaths of U.S. soldiers and even Jewish concentration camp victims.
In the film, Gualtier discusses his war memories, and his regrets. He still carries guilt about those who died. He wishes he had had better equipment and training. He wonders if, when faced with deciding which of two seriously-wounded soldiers to treat, he made the right choice in which one to try to help first. He discussed his life with PTSD and suicide attempts, and how speaking to the students in recent years has helped him.
The presentation of the short documentary was the first public display, although the film has been on Youtube for a few months. Producer Brent Wilkins is hoping to make a full-length documentary about Gualtier and the overall topic of PTSD, but needs more funding. He is in the process of procuring grants, and also relying on local fund-raising efforts. VSHS students are holding a fund-raising event Friday at the basketball game, which includes the raffle of many prizes and other activities. Gualtier and Watkins plan to be there.
After the showing of the film in the auditorium on Tuesday, the students gave Gualtier a standing ovation. Teacher Kelly Steffen, who first invited Gualtier to speak to her students years ago, said the students were visibly moved by his story.