Tom Hanks and Tom Brokaw were given the American Spirit Award by the National WWII Museum and the 58-year-old actor was typically gracious about accepting the award explaining that he thinks Steven Spielberg’s film “Saving Private Ryan” really sparked a renewed interest in the subject.

“With Steven's knowledge of how to tell a story and his cinematic understanding of how to tell that story, the language that he speaks, the tools at his disposal to capture something like the Invasion of Normandy, it was all brand new, so it was all going to be able to happen in a very fresh, very immediate kind of way," reports Rob Shuter.

“It opened up a floodgate of reminisces and understanding and I think a very, very personal connection to  it. I can't tell you how many times I have come across somebody who has told me that their Dad or Grandfather never said a word about what they did from 1941-1945 until they saw "Saving Private Ryan."

“And that's when those kids or those grand-kids found out that there Dad or Grandpa were on the third wave at Utah Beach. Now that's a long time to go without those stories being told  to people that you love and people that would love to hear you.”

The Oscar winner also confessed that he still avidly reads WWII accounts, “because I keep finding brand new stories. I keep finding brand new moments of human experience, not historical experience of what people did that make me slap my head and wonder. 'You know I'm reading a story about a guy who did amazing things, saved lives, took chances, didn't know if he was going to survive, was part of history and he was 22 years old. 

"Or he was 19 years old. If you were 24 years old do you know what they called you in the army or the air force or the navy? They called you Pops because you were old, they called you Pops if you were 25, 26 years old!”

Even though Hanks was already a father by 22 and, “grappling with stuff that I thought was a big deal and 'oh poor me how will I ever figure this out?' he cheerfully added, "but I didn't have no Nazis shooting at me. So it all worked out pretty good!"

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