My father Bruce Sundlun was a World War II bomber pilot, who was shot down over Belgium. He was the only one in his crew to not be killed or captured. When he was only 23 years old, an age when I was worried about breaking into TV or living in a cool city, my father was stealing bicycles to stay alive as he rode across Europe trying to find neutral Switzerland without being taken prisoner by the Nazis. By the way he was Jewish. His stories all seemed like fantasy hero tales at the dinner table, when he shared even the slightest detail. I, like many today, just couldn’t grasp all he did to fight for not only our freedom, but for the people in Europe that Americans like him helped to liberate. I couldn’t understand the depth of his strength and sacrifice until I walked a day in his footsteps.
I traveled with the World War II foundation last year to retrace my father’s steps in Jabbekke, Belgium for the documentary they are doing on his heroic escape. It’s called Above and Beyond, and Dad was that. He was a hero to Luc Packo, the Belgian man who has spent his life preserving the legacy of my father’s crew from the Damn Yankee, and who thanks my father, and all the Americans who fought with him, for driving out the Nazis and freeing him to live in his beautiful village and create his own dreams with his loving family. Luc told me American veterans are like Mick Jagger over there, and that when my father came over hundreds turned out to meet him and thank him at the dedication of a memorial to him and his crew. On this day may we all remember the true rock stars like my Dad who helped create a new harmony on earth. Have fun at your cook out, but don’t forget to thank a veteran for your life of liberty. I feel so lucky my father lived to tell his story, and today I send prayers for those who did not.
Here is a link to the clip we ran on Better Connecticut of my trip to retrace my father’s steps.
Above and Beyond will premier August 21st at the Providence Performing Arts Center. You can find out more below about the amazing World War Two Foundation and its mission to teach us about the veterans who fought so we could live freely. It’s a non-profit organization I’m proud to support.