Vets Can Help Preserve Country's History
By MELISSA CROWE
Just in time for Veterans Day, citizens can take part in preserving the nation's history.
The Veterans History Project, supported by the Library of Congress and backed locally by the American Red Cross, invites veterans, writers and history buffs to help collect, preserve and make accessible the first-person accounts of American wartime veterans and supporters. Sign up for the free training seminar -- conducted by Stephen Sloan, an oral historian from Baylor University -- offered Thursday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the local chapter of American Red Cross office on Rieck Road. Call the Red Cross at 903-581-7981 for information.
The project is open to volunteers in 10th grade and older. "It makes us a part of history, and that, in itself, is really, really dynamite," Linda Edwards, Red Cross volunteer director, said. There already are more than 16,000 veterans living in Smith County. Nationwide more than 1,000 veterans die each day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"The people who support our military have as many stories and recollections as our military personnel," Ms. Edwards said.
She said if the stories are not saved, a valuable piece of United States history will be lost. "If they're not recorded, they'll be lost, watered down or changed," Ms. Edwards said. Mary Ann Epperson Nilson, an Army veteran, volunteered to collect stories and plans to collect as many as she can. She wants to collect stories of the "small acts of heroism" that went unnoticed and could be forever lost if not for this project. I think each time you talk to someone, they're going to have a friend, whether I get to meet them personally or talk to them on the phone or Skype. This is going to be a chance for stories," Mrs. Nilson said. "There's always going to be another story to tell." The project started in 2000 and collects video and audio recordings of the interviews, as well as original narratives, memoirs and wartime diaries or journals.
It also accepts original collections letters, official military documents and collections of original photos or artwork.
Those interested in telling their story can learn more about the project and see a complete list of accepted items at loc.gov/vets.