“I wasn’t injured, I was wounded. Big difference. Your mother used to say, ‘Before his accident’ meaning, like, getting shot, I would say, “Linda, it wasn’t an accident, somebody was trying to kill me.”
While you are used to hearing the audio pieces we share on NPR’s Morning Edition and our podcast, StoryCorps interviews are really much longer conversations—about 40 minutes—that take place between two people in a booth or other private space with a trained StoryCorps facilitator present.
Currently our archives house over 65,000 of these conversations, and because they are fascinating complete looks into people’s lives, and offer insight into the mechanics of a StoryCorps interview, we have started to bring these to you unedited.
This discussion, between Phil Avillo, 73, and his daughter, Susan Scherr, 36, was recorded in York, Pennsylvania, in November 2015, and covers two StoryCorps programs: the Military Voices Initiative (MVI) and Legacy. MVI provides a platform for veterans, service members, and military families to share their stories in order to honor their voices and amplify their experiences, while Legacy provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve, and share their stories through partnerships with organizations across the country.
You may notice that Phil and Susan are pictured below not in a StoryCorps booth or medical facility, but in his home. The unique Legacy “train the trainer” model allows partner organizations like Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (who have recorded over 30 interviews with StoryCorps), to train their own facilitators who then record interviews with participants in a variety of locations.
Phil, a former Marine who fought in the Vietnam War (pictured above in 1965), was recently diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Phil talks with Susan about how his recent diagnosis has affected his life, and sheds light on his approach to living with a disease with no known cause, cure, or long-term treatment. “It’s not like I’m 25, you know. I think this disease is—as insidious as it is—is cruelest, and think all diseases are cruelest, when they hit younger people. If I were forty and you kids were young and this was happening to me, I would be beside myself.”
He also reflects on his service during the Vietnam War where he lost his left leg in combat on December 7, 1965—making him, as he puts it, a Pearl Harbor Day survivor of sorts—and telling Susan that the amputation infused him with a confidence he never before had leading his life to take on a feeling of urgency.
Phil also discusses the loss of his mother at a young age, meeting and marrying his wife, and the full life he now enjoys despite the challenges he confronts daily.
Click here to listen to the interview.
Click here to download a PDF transcript of this interview.
Click here for more information about Legacy.
Click here for more information about the Military Voices Initiative.