The Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute has discovered a seemingly unlikely guest speaker in Mesa author Inge Myrick.
World War II military hero Joe Foss created the organization to carry on his personal mission of instilling patriotism and highlighting American freedoms to students.
In contrast, Myrick grew up a proud citizen of Nazi Germany. She was, by definition, an enemy of both the United States and Foss.
After the war, though, she changed her views about Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, married a U.S. Air Force airman and gained U.S. citizenship.
She detailed her story in the book, "The Other Side! The Life Journey of a Young Girl through Nazi Germany," which was published late last year.
Starting next month, she’ll join her husband, Tom, as a public speaker for the Foss Institute.
Approximately 50 veterans locally and 300 nationwide participate in the "Veterans Inspiring Patriotism" program, said program director Cheryl Mercure.
"She offers another perspective of what it’s like to be living in a different country under different circumstances," Mercure said of Inge Myrick.
Tom Myrick, 71, already has made about a dozen appearances for the institute. Inge offers a fascinating account of World War II, he said.
Inge, now 81, admired Hitler during the 1930s and early 1940s and and was eager to join the Federation of German Girls, the girls’ version of the Hitler Youth movement. She met Hitler in 1935. At the time, she felt it was a tremendous honor.
Two years after Hitler took power in Germany, school administrators selected her to present a bouquet of flowers to him before a speech in Chemnitz.
"I remember that my heart was beating wildly . . ." she states in the book. "To be in such close proximity to Hitler took everyone’s breath away."
Inge’s father was under pressure to join the Nazi Party, but instead he tried to move the family to the United States in 1937. The rest of the family revolted and so they stayed, she wrote.
Meanwhile, Jewish people began to disappear, the country became increasingly militaristic and war started.
It sounds astonishing now, she said, but she had no idea the Holocaust was under way. She thought Jews simply chose to leave the country.
She and other Germans endured worsening conditions and survived the bombing of Chemnitz. By the end of the war, she was happy to surrender.
"Our prayers went up to heaven, tears rolled down everyone’s faces, men and women alike, unashamed tears," Inge states in the book.
While a waitress in a pizza restaurant in 1957, she met Tom, stationed in Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
They discussed the Holocaust, but she still didn’t believe the "rumors." She traveled alone to the Dachau concentration camp before she fully understood the Nazi agenda, she said.
They married in 1960 and traveled around the world and the United States on Tom’s Air Force assignments. She became a U.S. citizen in 1966.
"When I meet children, I tell them there is no better country in the world than America," she said.