Veterans History Project Wants Help Gathering Stories

Navy corpsman gives drink to wounded marine on Guam / official U.S. Navy photo. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. July 1944.

Veterans Day is Friday.  It’s especially important to Florida’s 1.7 million veterans. Their stories are why the Library of Congress is focusing on Florida for its Veterans History Project. The goal is to get family and friends, individuals and organizations to help gather the oral histories from veterans for the national archives.

Close to 3,000 Florida veterans already have their war stories filed with the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

“Future generations should have an opportunity not to just learn from the history books, but to hear directly from those who served,” said Jessica Souva, the Florida liaison for the Veterans History Project.

Nathaniel Ralely P.O.W. ID Photograph, Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany. Photo courtesy of Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, August, 1944.

Souva said there’s a special interest in getting stories from combat veterans. One of her favorite, already on file, came from Florida veteran Steven Rodriguez, an Air Force Sergeant who served in the Gulf War:

“He had pictures that he looked at a lot, a lock of hair from his wife that he kept in his wallet,” Souva said. “He said he had a little pillow ‘I’d gotten from the airplane and as corny as it sounds, when I went to bed at night, I had one for under my head and one next to me – a smaller one – and I used to pretend that was my son.’”

The Library of Congress wants help taking down the veterans’ stories. There’s a user-friendly website at www.loc.gov/veterans with clear guidelines and a field guide that you can download. The guide has suggestions on where to do the interview, how to record it, what questions to ask and what documents are accepted in addition to videos and audio recordings.

Additionally, if you’re a veteran with a story to share, contact the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Organizers can put you in touch with universities and non-profit groups in your area helping gather the interviews.

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