If you are a history geek like me, and I assume you are because you are reading the blog, then here is a project that should be interesting. In the late 90’s and early 00’s there was a much bandied statistic floating around that 1,000 World War II vets died every day. If that number were true then it is probably not true anymore because there probably are not enough World War II vets left to keep dying in those numbers for very long.
One thing that modern technology allows is to capture the memories of individual and put them into a form accessible to both the public and historians. One project like that is the Veteran’s History Project by the Library of Congress. What this project does is it “collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” The project makes all of this material available through its own website and includes not just narratives but also pictures and videos made by the veterans.
What is neat about this project is that it depends on non-historians to collect the material for it. The veterans themselves can submit their own stories or people who just want to preserve history can go out and interview vets for inclusion in the database. They have a VHP Field Kit that people can download to help guide them in their interviews of vets. I plan on filling one of the kits out with my own experiences and also interviewing my brother and father who are also both vets. My dad was in Vietnam and my brother was in Operation Desert Fox in 1990 while I was in both Bosnia in 1995 and Iraq 2004-2005.
This is a great project for history teachers to get involved in. Not only does it make the kids aware of the men and women who walk among them every day who put their lives on the line in service to the country, it also preserves the memories of the men and women for future generations. I can imagine finding and interviewing a vet being a pretty enlightening project for high school sophomores or juniors.