02/12/08 — Veterans' stories sought for posterity

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Veterans' stories sought for posterity

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 12, 2008 1:56 PM

For eight years, the U.S. Library of Congress has been trying to collect and preserve the stories of the men and women who have defended this country.

It's an effort that Veterans History project director Bob Patrick has said will continue, but one that needs the constant help and support of veterans and those who care about them.

"We have a vast network of organizations all across the country that are involved in this. I think we've gotten the word out there and I'd like to think most veterans know about it. But I run into people every day who have never heard about the project," he said.

So far, there are approximately 55,000 collections, with more coming in every day at the rate of 100 to 200 oral histories a week.

Patrick explained that a collection is either an audio or video tape of a veteran telling his or her story. Often included with those are photographs, as well as personal diaries, memoirs and scrapbooks.

The project's collections span from World War I to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, though the lion's share have come from World War II.

"It's a very rich and full archive, but we've got millions more out there who have stories," he said. "Our mission is to collect and preserve the wartime remembrances of our veterans."

And, he expects that as time continues to separate veterans from their combat experiences in the current wars, Vietnam and even Korea, more and more of those men and women will begin coming forward.

He explained that the Veterans History Project was the brainchild of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis. -- that it began with the congressman overhearing his father and uncle swapping war stories one day.

"I think a light bulb just went on for him that a lot of fellows' stories needed to be heard," Patrick said.

For him, his favorite stories are those of ordinary people.

"The ones I like the best are the ones you never hear about," Patrick said. "You hear about the generals and the heroes, but there were men and women who led pretty ordinary lives before the war, did some extraordinary things and then went back home.

"We would never hear those stories if we didn't have the Veterans History Project."

So he encourages people to get involved, especially if they have friends or family members who are veterans.

Information about collecting stories, doing interviews and submitting them to the Library of Congress is available on the project's Web site www.loc.gov/vets.

"There on our Web site is everything you need to do this. Anybody can do it," Patrick said.

Or they can simply visit one of the nearby partner locations, which also are listed on the Internet.

Also available are staff assistant Jason Lowry in Rep. Walter Jones' Greenville office at (252) 931-1003, or for Rep. Mike McIntyre, U.S. Naval Capt. Wilbur Jones in Wilmington at (910) 793-6393.