Projects allows us all to hear veterans’ stories

For some families, Veterans Day has taken on new meaning the last couple of years with world events and now the Iraq war and its aftermath. For many, it’s an observance vaguely noted while remembering that the post offices and banks are closed.

It’s not that people don’t care about our veterans. It’s that their hectic lives don’t allow them the time to properly honor our living heroes.

A national project, aptly called the Veterans History Project, could be the average person’s way to thank and forever honor those who served in battle and lived to tell about it by telling their fascinating stories or helping them tell it themselves. When people learn that there are 19 million veterans in the United States, but 1,700 of them die every day, the urgency should set in.

The project was created by Congress and signed into law in October 2000. Now the responsibility to collect and preserve audio and video oral histories along with letters, diaries, photos and much more rests with the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center.

The Web site offers thorough and important advice for getting started on the project — everything from finding a veteran to interview to locating resources to make the project come to fruition, including required forms to fill out. Project organizers are looking for people to interview World War I veterans first, for obvious reasons. High schoolers are encouraged to get involved, too. Hmmm. Senior project, anyone? But veterans aren’t the only ones who can be interviewed. Consider talking with civilians who served our country in a different fashion, whether working for the American Red Cross or in a factory that produced war planes or weapons. For those veterans who are up to it, there’s even a memoir kit to help you get started on telling your own story.

The possibilities for learning and creativity are endless. But most importantly, the opportunity to honor our veterans through the ancient art of storytelling is now available to all of us. And its benefits will live on for generations to come.

Interested in learning more about the Veterans History Project or ready to get started right away? Check out the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center site at www.loc.gov/folklife/ and click on Veterans History Project.

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