A Hero Among Us tells the story of 92 year old World War II veteran John Gualtier. John served as a medic with the 71st Infantry Division that saw intense combat as the allied Armies advanced into Germany near the close of the war. Through a series of interviews, John relates his firsthand account as a liberator of a concentration camp located in Gunskirchen Lager, Austria. As eyewitness to the Nazi atrocities, he tells of the utter shock and incomprehensible scope of tragedy that would unfold in the days and weeks ahead. In an ironic twist of fate, his last orders were to deliver medications to imprisoned Nazi party leaders during the Nuremburg trials – the very people who were complicit in the genocide at Gunskirchen Lager and other concentration camps.
Beyond his role as a liberator, John’s duties as a medic included acts of bravery that would eventually earn him the Bronze Star. The toll his experiences took on his own mental health was brutal. Long before post-traumatic stress disorder was known or understood, John found himself in and out of Army hospital psychiatric wards. He experienced homelessness and made two attempts to end his life. Through the support of an Army nurse who would become his wife, John managed to survive his emotional wounds and settle in Vinton, Iowa, where he lived his life in peace and quiet – rarely discussing his wartime experience with friends and neighbors.
A local high school teacher who heard rumors of John’s wartime service eventually persuaded him to share his story with high school students who were studying World War II. They had no idea Vinton was home to a hero – a man who would discover the healing power of sharing his story.
Now, work is underway to produce a feature film that details Sergeant Gualtier’s life and the price paid by veteran’s of World War II who had to cope with mental health issues before PTSD was known or understood. While a short featurette has already been produced that touches on several key details of John’s life, much of his story has yet to be told. With your help, we can tell that story.