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Global
Earth from Space SpecOps

20th CENTURY WARFARE PORTAL

WW I Earth at Night Vietnam
WW II Micro Wars
Cold War Persian Gulf
Korea Bosnia
by Courtney Brooks
 
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 5, 2002) 
The great wars are usually remembered for their bloodiest 
battles, most decorated brass and historic treaties, rarely 
do the soldiers and civilians on the home front have an 
opportunity to voice their individual experiences.

The Veterans History Project is giving soldiers a chance to 
relay these personal stories. Project organizers are 
encouraging Americans of all ages to participate in a mission 
to capture and chronicle oral histories from America's war 
veterans. The stories will become a collection in the 
Library of Congress' American Folklife Center, located in 
Washington, D.C.

Volunteers interview veterans, collect letters, photographs 
and journals from former service members of World War I, 
World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars, 
as well as the civilians who supported them.mMost importantly, 
the project seeks to honor the individual's experience, said 
Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, director of the Veterans History Project 
at the Library of Congress. "We're not attempting to patch 
together a complete history of every war," said McCulloch-Lovell.  
"We're trying to let people talk about their experiences and what 
meant the most to them."
The personal wartime accounts have preserved history that may 
have otherwise been forgotten, said Charlie Mendoza, vice president 
of membership and member services for the American Association of 
Retired Persons, a founding sponsor of the project. "In New York, 
I witnessed an interview with a young man from a college 
interviewing a man who used to use Navajo code [a Navajo code talker] 
with the Marine Corps in World War II," Mendoza said. "I thought, 
'That's terrific.' That's something that might have been lost." Mendoza 
said that the U.S. is losing 1,600 veterans a day and before long, 
there won't be any memory to collect. Wartime accounts are an important 
part of America's history, he said. "Not only does war change a lot of 
countries; it changes nations, it changes people," Mendoza said. "With 
every war that has taken place, changes take place on the home front."
Mendoza not only encourages members of the AARP, but all Americans to 
become involved with interviewing veterans. He believes everyone, 
particularly youth, have a lot to benefit from the project.

Eleven-year old Edward Litten has taken it upon himself to interview 
some 20 veterans since April. He said that young Americans should 
participate in this program because they don't know what they're 
missing. The "Young Marine" has conducted the interviews at the 
Southeastern  Michigan Veterans Service Center near his home in 
Monroe, Mi. Litten volunteered three days per week the entire summer 
and after school every day during the school year, hoping to catch a 
veteran to interview. "I think it's really cool to hear all the veteran's 
stories and just know the fact that they're not going to be forgotten," 
Litten said. "Some of the stories are really sad because not everything 
in the war was really cool. There were a lot of sad parts."
Veterans have also gleaned new understanding from interviews by a younger 
generation. A Korean and Vietnam veteran himself, Mendoza was interviewed 
by his youngest daughter. He said that the experience helped bridge 
generational gaps, which he said is one of the goals of the project."It 
has gotten us a lot closer, honestly," said Mendoza. "They wanted to know, 
'Why was dad gone so much?' and 'Why wasn't dad around?' when they were 
younger." Capturing civilians' stories from the wartime eras are also 
important, Mendoza added. "Even though this project is concentrating on 
veterans themselves, I think another important part is working with the 
veterans who stayed at home," Mendoza said. "That's an important part of 
our collective memory...not just the people who went off to service."
Authorized by Congress through the enactment of Public Law 106-380 and 
signed into law by President Clinton on Oct. 27, 2000, the Veterans 
History Project has chronicled histories of approximately 1,500 veterans 
to date. McCulloch-Lovell hopes to reach much larger masses for the 
historical collection. The project will be ongoing with goals of reaching 
literally millions of people, she said. Although she missed out on the 
opportunity to interview her own father, who served in the Navy in World 
War II, she was able to help her mother make 1,800 copies of his letters 
to her. She realized how precious this opportunity was and invites others 
to share in the experience. "You can do it (interview)," McCulloch-Lovell 
said.  "It's a wonderful experience. I've done a number of these interviews 
myself and they're unforgettable." Litten agreed that the experience has 
been worthwhile, even though he has spent quite a bit of time going to 
Michigan's Flat Rock Speedway picking up deposit bottles to pay for the 
postage and videotapes for the interviews being sent to the project's 
headquarters. "I just feel like I'm doing my part in history and making 
sure that people remember all the stories and all the wars," Litten said. 
"There are only two wars in my history book anymore-the Revolutionary War 
and the Civil War-and there's not too much on those wars at all."McCulloch-
Lovell said that other youth and adults can get involved in the ongoing 
project by accessing the Veterans History Project Web site or calling a 
toll-free number, which provides guidelines for partners and volunteers. 
A project kit, with instructions, for people who would like to interview 
veterans is available on the Web site. Already, more than 420 organizations 
have partnered with the project, including veterans' service organizations, 
historical societies, libraries, museums, military archives, colleges and 
universities, military historical groups and heritage areas. The oral 
histories and documents collected will be part of the national Veterans 
History Project Collection at the Library of Congress and other recognized 
repositories, McCulloch-Lovell said. Eventually, portions of the material 
will be available digitally on the Library of Congress Web site, she added.
To become involved with the project, visit the Veterans History Project Web 
site at www.loc.gov/veterans/ or call the toll-free number at 1-888-371-5848.


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