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Thousands of service members' wartime stories documented by Red Cross volunteers
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 11:07pm
The history of tomorrow is being written today. Historians will study the wars of this time for years to come, and thanks to the Veterans History Project, service members can contribute to that historical research by recording first-person narratives of their wartime experience.
Service members of all ranks, their family and friends, and even civilians who supported war efforts can contribute to the VHP and tell their stories about World War I & II, as well as the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Veterans who are released from active duty can coordinate with the local American Red Cross to tell their story to an interviewer, who records the conversation and sends it to the Library of Congress for permanent filing. They can also include original memoirs, photographs, letters and other documents of this nature to include with their file. History scholars can then access these narratives and use them for their research.
Since October 2000, the American Red Cross has documented thousands of wartime stories in this effort with the help of volunteers.
“The amount of information we can get from this one database (at the Library of Congress) … it’s insane,” said Kristina M. Martinez, an American Red Cross volunteer who is working on her master’s degree in history. “There is nothing that can replace that first-hand account.”
Not only does the VHP allow Soldiers to be a part of the history books, but it also makes sure all sides of the story are told, said retired Sgt. Maj. Scott L. Denson, who recently completed a narrative for the program.
“Anyone who watches my clip – hopefully gives them perspective,” said Denson. “People will hopefully be able to compare this, years down the road, and see how things were at the time that I served.”
He said an additional benefit to documenting his experience is that his children and grandchildren will always be able to access his video, even long after he is gone. They will be able to hear how he proudly served and can honor his memory.
“The project is such a wonderful thing that I wish we had had it when my husband was still living so I could have brought his oral history to the front,” said Gaetana Broillet, the Fort Bliss chapter VHP chairperson and late wife of a Korean War veteran. “My hope is that these videos can be shown to everyone; maybe one day even on TV.”
While these interviews may not be broadcast on television yet, they are available online for the public at www.loc.gov/vets. Service members can also visit the site to gather more information about contributing or volunteering, or can visit the American Red Cross at Bldg. 45 Slater Rd. on West Fort Bliss.