Here's Val!

Burgess found herself drawn deeper into the stories of these remarkable men—stories of bravery, sacrifice, and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.

How it started...

As a child, Val Burgess felt a stirring within, a sense that her life held a purpose meant to shape the world. It was a sentiment echoed in the verses of Robert Frost's timeless poem, "The Road Not Taken," which whispered to her soul, guiding her towards the less-traveled path. When she was thirty-nine, little did she know, this decision would ignite a journey of profound significance, altering the course of her life forever. The year was 1993, and Burgess found herself at her grandmother's funeral, surrounded by family and memories. It was there that her Uncle Vernon Burda, a seasoned navigator who had served on a B-24 during World War II, shared a desire that had long lingered in his heart—to return to the prison camp where he had been interned during the war. His words sparked something within Burgess, igniting a fire of determination and purpose.

"Why don't you go?"...

She asked her uncle, her voice carrying a note of curiosity and possibility. And with that simple question, the seeds of a remarkable journey were planted. Uncle Vernon dreamed of organizing a trip to Europe, a pilgrimage of sorts, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of their liberation from the prison camp. But he needed help, someone with the skills to bring his vision to life. Burgess, with her background in design and marketing, stepped forward without hesitation, offering her expertise to make his dream a reality.

So a new journey began...

Burgess's journey with the Prisoners of War (POWs) began—a journey that would take her across oceans and continents, weaving together the threads of history, memory, and personal connection. Her design firm sprang into action, crafting marketing materials and reaching out to former POWs across the United States. Letters were sent, phone calls were made, and slowly but surely, a community began to coalesce around the idea of returning to Europe, to the places where they had once been prisoners but had emerged as survivors.

As Burgess immersed herself in the project, she found herself drawn deeper into the stories of these remarkable men—stories of bravery, sacrifice, and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity. Each phone call, each conversation, revealed new layers of their experiences, painting a vivid portrait of wartime heroism and human endurance.

It wasn’t until six months into the project that Burgess learned of her uncle’s own connection to the war. Stalag Luft III — the very name evoked memories of a favorite childhood movie. She had never known that her uncle had served in WWII, let alone that he had been held at the infamous “Great Escape Camp.” The revelation added a new dimension to her journey, deepening her sense of connection to the past and fueling her determination to honor the memories of those who had come before.

In the summer of 1994, Burgess embarked on a series of interviews with former POWs, eager to capture their stories before they faded into history. The first interviewee was Lowell “Slats” Slayton, a B-17 gunner who had crash-landed behind enemy lines and endured captivity in Luftwaffe prison camps. Slats’s account was both harrowing and inspiring, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable hardship.

With each interview, Burgess’s understanding of the war grew deeper, her appreciation for the sacrifices of these men ever more profound. Their stories painted a vivid picture of life behind enemy lines—of hunger, fear, and above all, hope for a better tomorrow. And as Burgess listened, she began to see echoes of their experiences in her own life, finding strength and inspiration in their example.

In April of 1995, Burgess joined 125 former POWs and 200 family members on a journey across Europe, retracing the footsteps of their wartime odyssey. From Stalag Luft III to the snow-covered fields of Germany, they followed in the footsteps of history, bearing witness to the places where these men had once fought and suffered.

For Burgess, the trip was a revelation—a chance to walk in the footsteps of heroes and to honor the sacrifices of those who had come before. It was a journey of remembrance and renewal, a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

As they traveled, Burgess found herself overwhelmed by the stories she heard, humbled by the courage and resilience of these men in the face of unimaginable hardship. Their tales were heart-wrenching and inspiring, a reminder of the debt owed to those who had fought and bled for the cause of freedom.

But the journey didn’t end with their return home…

Val's Mission

For Burgess, hearing these stories was just the beginning—a chance to carry forward the legacy of these men and to ensure that their stories would never be forgotten. Through her work, she sought to preserve their memories for future generations, to honor the sacrifices of the past and to inspire a new generation to embrace the values of courage, resilience, and sacrifice. In today's world, Burgess reflects on the lessons learned from these men and the enduring legacy of their experiences. Their stories are a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope—that through courage, resilience, and perseverance, we can overcome even the greatest of challenges.

Burgess continues her journey, carrying forward the torch lit by those who came before. Theirs is a legacy of courage, sacrifice, and unwavering determination—a legacy that will continue to inspire and guide future generations for years to come.

The topic, echoed by the audience

The audience shares their experiences of transformation and growth. Unfiltered feedback and the true testament to Val's presentation.

I can without any reservation or element of empty praise, congratulate you on one of the best oracle presentations I have ever heard! It was a rare joy to hear such a finely crafted oration!
Jason Green
Gulf War Vet
Val has gathered amazing stories of adversity, resilience, courage, dedication, and service from people who served in wartime. Veterans of World War II are increasingly rare. If you and your people could use encouragement, and support for dealing with adversity, (and who doesn’t these days?), I would say Val’s your Gal, and you should get in touch.
Donnell King, MS, DTM
Confidence Cultivator
Val Bugess's stories of World War II veterans are riveting. She makes history come alive. I recommend her storytelling for youth of all ages. Adults will be spellbound as well.
Vera Thomas
Vera Thomas Show, 24x Best Selling Author, Life Coach, International Speaker, Trainer

Empower your audience with Val's dynamic presentation style

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