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Veteran Spotlight: Stephen Collins, Jr.

Not unlike many of you, I sit in a cubicle facing a computer monitor for several hours each work day. But I’m not here to share my many thoughts on poor ergonomics or eye strain. (I could type pages on the subject, but that would probably make my wrists and eyes hurt.) Part of my job is to comb through the Veterans History Project (VHP) collections for stories to share with our constituents, be they members of Congress, researchers, volunteers or veterans. Sometimes I am searching for collections that meet a specific criterion, such as World War II Army veterans who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, or Navy chaplains. Other times my quest is more general, and I might search for all women veterans, or all veterans who self-identify as Black or African American.

Stephen Collins, Jr. in uniform, armed in front of a jeep. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

Stephen Collins, Jr. in uniform, armed in front of a jeep. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

I was recently on one such mission seeking African American veterans to highlight during Black History Month. The collection of Stephen Collins, Jr., a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, immediately caught my attention. This was not the first time I had come across Collins’ collection; a few photos and a brief description of his story are on display in VHP’s Information Center.

Stephen Collins, Jr. as an infantryman, in a tent, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

Stephen Collins, Jr. as an infantryman, in a tent, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Stephen M. Collins, Jr. Collection. Veterans History Project, AFC/2001/001/11615.

I already knew he had been a medical school student and reservist at the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. What I had not realized until taking a closer look was how that singular event gave him a deep sense of obligation to serve his country, his branch of service and the others in his unit, when he was called to active duty two years later. That obligation was what kept him going. He said it best:

I did my job. I did the best that I could do, and I made it back.

We thank Staff Sergeant Collins for his valor and service to our country. Watch his full VHP interview and view photos from his collection here.

Afterward, stand up, and take a stretch break.

VHP: An Open Collection

Periodically, the Veterans History Project (VHP) sets aside a day for Library of Congress employees to preserve the stories of the veterans in their lives on-site, using VHP’s recording equipment. Whenever we announce the opportunity to participate in this way, our colleagues enthusiastically respond and quickly make appointments to bring in their spouses, parents, siblings […]

Vietnam War: Air Power

The following is a guest post by Andrew Huber, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). Operation Rolling Thunder, a sustained bombing campaign conducted by the United States and the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, ended in November 1968. Beginning in 1965, the operation involved over 300,000 sorties conducted by the U.S. […]

New Director Appointed to Lead Veterans History Project

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFC), and in particular the Veterans History Project (VHP), are delighted to announce that Karen D. Lloyd has been appointed as the new director of the Veterans History Project, effective October 30, 2016. She permanently joins the VHP/AFC staff after a brief stint as acting director […]

Memoriam for a Code Talker: Joe Hosteen Kellwood

The following is a guest post by Owen Rogers, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). In second grade, I asked my teacher why American soldiers were fighting – and dying –in Somalia. Images of GIs slain in Bakaara Market clashed with the invincible G.I. Joes I carried in my knapsack, and in my […]

Day of the Deployed

The following is a guest post by Andrew Huber, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). October 26th marks the National Day of the Deployed, which honors all those veterans and active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who have spent time abroad in service to their country. As anyone who has been deployed […]

VHP in the Classroom

The following is a guest post by Andrew Huber, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). As students have returned to school across the country, young people are learning not just about reading, writing and arithmetic, but about service, honor and sacrifice as well. Classrooms and student groups nationwide take part in the Veterans […]

Stand Down: Recording Homeless Veterans’ Stories

On a cool, cloudy morning about a month ago, my colleague Tamika Brown and I stood in the midst of a massive tent city in Seaside, California. The air smelled of the Pacific Ocean, and also of smoke, thanks to the enormous wildfire burning in nearby Big Sur. Row after row of khaki-colored tents stretched […]

The Inspiring Life of Texan Héctor P. García

The following is a guest post by Christy Chason, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). Until recently, Dr. Héctor P. García was someone about whom I knew precious little. In fact, knowing what I know now, I am embarrassed to say that I had only ever heard his name in the context of […]