by Jim Pedersen
Every day veterans of all ages share their stories with me. They recount harrowing tales of battles, captivity and injury and heroic stories of courage, perseverance and ingenuity. But they also share heartwarming accounts of service camaraderie, lifelong friendship and humor found in the most unlikely places and events. In addition to giving the details of their service, they share deeply personal and moving stories of how their military service shaped and changed their lives – for both good and bad. They often tell me they want to record their experiences for future generations, so they will remember the past and allow it to guide their future.
The Library of Congress is offering veterans a way to do just that through the Veterans History Project. Coordinated by the American Folklife Center in Washington, DC, the project aims to collect and preserve personal accounts of American war veterans so that others can hear these firsthand accounts and through them, better understand the realities of war. Veterans History Project’s curators are collecting information about U.S. Veterans beginning with World War I. They are seeking information about people who were part of combat operations and American interventions as well as those who served during the Cold War.
Veterans are encouraged to share personal narratives, written memoirs, correspondence such as letters, postcards, diaries, and visual materials including photos, drawings and scrapbooks. Family members of deceased veterans are also encouraged to participate by sharing memories of their loved one, retelling the stories they told, and providing memorabilia and other military-related materials that belonged to their veteran. These narratives and accompanying memorabilia will be preserved at the American Folklife Center but the information is also available for viewing online at Veterans History Project website, www.loc.gov/vets/.
The website features many moving video interviews with veterans of all ages.
Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000, but there has been a renewed effort to encourage veterans to share their stories. Locally, U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson’s staff is inviting local veterans and their families to schedule an interview through their office so that they can share and preserve their military story. The Congressman said he became interested in the project because he believes every veteran deserves to have their story and experience told.
“That’s why I have partnered with the Library of Congress through the Veterans History Project to highlight veterans in our own community. This project will make sure veterans from our region will have their stories preserved in the Library of Congress so that current and future generations can learn from their experiences and respect their service to our nation,” Hudson said.
I spoke with Bekah Bibb, Constituent Services Liaison for Congressman Hudson, who is conducting veteran interviews on the second Tuesday of each month. The location alternates between Fayetteville and Pinehurst, depending on the location of interested veterans.
During the course of the conversation, veterans are encouraged to share stories of their childhood and their family, recount what led them to military service, talk about what happened during their service, and finally, share how they fared after their discharge. They may bring photos, medals, letters or any other memorabilia that is important to them. They can also bring photos of other soldiers with whom they maintained lifelong friendships after their service ended.
The interviews range in length from at least 30 minutes to 45 minutes or more. Because these interviews delve deeply into each veteran’s experience, appointments are necessary. To schedule an interview, call Bekah at 910-997-2070 on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, and at 910-246-5374 on Tuesdays or Thursdays.
“We have so many veterans here who have retired, especially in Moore County and Fayetteville,” Bekah stated. “So many of them don’t believe that their story is worth sharing. For our future generations, it is something that needs to be preserved. There are going to be kids, a generation from now, that can look up what their great-great-grandfather did in WWII,” she noted.
Like Bekah, I, too, have had many veterans downplay their service and their stories. However, all veterans have a story to share and it is important to preserve these stories for future generations. I encourage Moore County Veterans to submit their life stories to the non-partisan, non-political Veterans History Project so that others can know of their service, their sacrifice and their support of our nation.
The Moore County Veterans Office assists Moore County veterans with submitting disability and other VA claims and provides referrals to community resources. Appointments are needed and may be made by calling the office at 910-947-3257. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
VSO Jim Pedersen, right, is the director of the Moore County Veterans Service Office. Experienced nationally-certified VSOs Kelly Greene, and Robert “Bob” Hall, a Vietnam-era veteran who retired from the Army after 30 years of service, assist Moore County veterans with their disability claims.