Memorial Day is upon us again, a time to reflect on American veterans — men and women who sacrificed their lives for our nation.
The Veterans History Project (VHP), an oral history program of the Library’s American Folklife Center, was created by Congress in 2000 to collect, preserve, and make accessible the first-hand recollections of American war veterans. It archives the memories of our wartime veterans from World War I to the conflicts of today in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The stories in the VHP collection are told by veterans of all races and ethnicities, all branches of service, both men and women. Their stories range from compelling tales of combat to heartfelt stories of daily life.
Two among the more than 60,000 individual stories in the Veterans History Project collection are of particular interest on Memorial Day.
John Robert Slaughter was instrumental in the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. The town of Bedford paid a great sacrifice during the Normandy Invasion in World War II. Library of Congress employee and volunteer interviewer Martha Hopkins recorded the interview.
Gued Joseph Prola was a World War II combat medic during the Battle of the Bulge. He clearly recalls the sacrifice made by those he treated. He also remembers marching in a Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C.
The Librarian of Congress is a member of the White House Commission on Remembrance, and his designee is the director of the Veterans History Project. The commission was established by Public Law 106-579 and has a 10-year mission to “sustain the American spirit through acts of remembrance on Memorial Day and throughout the year … institutionalize the National Moment of Remembrance … enhance the commemoration and understanding of Memorial Day and … educate and give the younger generation a sense of our history and what it means to be an American.”
The commission is asking all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a National Moment of Remembrance. We at the Library of Congress encourage you to listen to the stories of Gued Joseph Prola and John Robert Slaughter this Memorial Day, and watch the clock on the Veterans History Project website.
(Thanks to VHP Director Robert Patrick and VHP spokesman Jeffrey Lofton for their assistance with this post.)