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Preserving our veterans' stories

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Recently our nation celebrated Independence Day -- marking 234 years since our Founding Fathers declared our freedom from Great Britain. In parades and celebrations, we saluted the courage, resolve, and commitment to our country by those who wore our nation's uniform and those who continue to serve in our military forces -- as well as their families and loved ones.

Our liberty is owed to the bravery of our veterans. Nebraska has approximately 165,000 veterans, many of whom live in the Third District. As co-chair of the Congressional Rural Veterans Caucus, I have heard firsthand the powerful stories of these brave men and women -- stories which deserve to be told.

Daily we lose approximately 1,000 World War II veterans, along with a growing number of vets from the Korean War and Vietnam War. They take with them stories and memories -- often untold and very rarely recorded for future generations. Each day which passes, important personal accounts from our history slip away. This is a critical time and I'm proud to be able lend my support to an effort to record our veterans' stories for future generations.

The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center was created to collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so everyone -- from families members to students to history buffs -- may directly hear from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

To date, the Veterans History Project comprises more than 70,000 individual collections. These accounts include recorded audio and video interviews, original photographs, letters, and other historical documents from veterans of every war and conflict since World War I, along with original photographs, diaries, historic documents, and memoirs which lend a personal voice and important perspective on the experience of war.

The project also serves as a tremendous outlet for veterans' children and grandchildren who have been curious about their relatives' wartime efforts. By sitting down, listening, and recording these stories, we have the chance to add overlooked details to important periods in our nation's history.

The Veterans History Project recruits Americans of all ages, veterans and non-veterans, to help gather these stories before they are lost. All volunteers receive training on how to properly record oral history and how to collect memoirs, photos, and other documents.

On Tuesday, July 27th, my office will be hosting a training session in Alliance for volunteers interested in participating in the Veterans History Project.

Attendees of this training session will receive hands-on instruction from a professional folklorist on how to participate in the Veterans History Project. The training session will be held at the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance. To register for this event or to obtain more information on possible future training sessions, contact my Scottsbluff office at (308) 633-6333 or visit http://adriansmith.house.gov. To learn more about the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project itself, visit www.loc.gov/vets.

I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in this exciting effort to capture first-person accounts of wartime experiences to contact my office for more information.

As the memories of this year's July 4th celebrations fade, let us not forget the reason why we celebrate this holiday. The Veterans History Project gives us the opportunity to honor the service of our nation's veterans, to preserve their stories for future generations, and to repay the debt of gratitude we owe them.

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If I may, War stories who endured the actual fighting, should be recorded, and remembered, so our young might have an idea about what sacrifices were made, to protect our Freedom.

May I further suggest, that, just perhaps, some might have other memories about their 'Service to Country,' that did not relate to actual battle. Take a look at some of the offerings made by Dick Trail, about his service, all over the world. I am sure there are others with excellent stories to share, even I have a couple; so that our people can realize that not all Service to Country' includes killing and being killed.

In our service, one can find some times good, some times bad, and, occasionally some times worthy of long term historical value, or social entertainment. Just a thought.

Arley Steinhour

-- Posted by Navyblue on Mon, Jul 12, 2010, at 5:33 PM

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U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith
Washington Report