In the U.S., we have national and regional observances. There are banquets, parades, free meal offers, special discounts, and hundreds of charities through which we try to say thank you to our veterans. As a country we have become more aware and more grateful to the soldiers who have served in the military since September 11, 2001. But we have other veterans, some of them feel forgotten and under appreciated. We can thank them and make certain they are not forgotten. We need to remember all of our veterans.
In October 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to create the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. It is program that collects and preserves the first-hand stories of America’s wartime veterans, primarily oral histories. VHP collects personal narratives, letters, and visual materials from veterans of: World War I (1914-1920); World War II (1939-1946); the Korean War (1950-1955); the Vietnam War (1961-1975); the Persian Gulf War (1990-1995), and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present). It will also accept the first-hand stories of citizens who were actively involved in supporting the war (USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.). (Please be aware that there are other websites that use the name Veterans History Project, but are not part of the Library of Congress.)
The VHP collection is available to the public at the Library of Congress. There is no charge. Of the 60,000 collections available more than 5,000 are fully digitized and may be accessed through the website. If you need a specific collection or specific subject researched, there is an Ask the Librarian feature you can use.
About now you’re asking yourself, how does this help me thank veterans? You can help make certain veterans stories are collected. Record an interview an American veteran one you know, or one you get to know for the purpose of participating in this project. Their experiences are an important part of American history. Recording their stories assures that they won’t be forgotten, that they are honored, remembered, and respected. Go, print off the VHP Field Kit to get the specifics on how to record the interview and submit it to VHP.
Not an American? I was able to find oral history collections available for my Canadian friends, at the Military Oral History collections of the University of Victoria Libraries and for my Australian friends there is the Through My Eyes collection at the Australians At War website.
Are you a veteran? Thank you so much for your service. Your service, and your story, is important, to me and to my readers. Will you share a bit of your story here?