Letters from Home: Celebrating Veterans and those At Home

This guest post is from the Library of Congress Teacher in Residence, Earnestine Sweeting.

Goofein Journal: Yes, He’s Coming Next Month

Veterans Day offers a time to honor all the men and women who have served our country. Across the nation, we pay tribute to veterans and their families for their courage and bravery with parades, ceremonies, remarks and speeches.

The Library’s Veterans History Project captures the lives of America’s service men and women through narratives, correspondence and visual materials.  A few items document the ways family kept their loved ones informed of events on the home front.  Take a look at Sweethearts, Buddies and Family Ties.  In the section on Family Ties, Marion Gurfein created a newsletter, The Goofein Journal, to keep her husband Joe up-to-date while he served in World War II and Korea.  I was thrilled to read the news of their daughter’s first steps and the celebration of their anniversary with the oceans between them, and I can only imagine how Joe felt.

News From Home

When I saw News from Home, Edwin Forbes’ 1863 Civil War pencil drawing, I wondered about how the news was received.   It seems that this soldier needed a quiet place where he could be alone to read the news from home. This image shows him alone, with no signs of war.

After reading about the lives of veterans and listening to their stories, teachers can have students:

  • Focus on an edition of The Goofein Journal and consider how the family’s experiences relate to their own life.  Include a conversation around the methods in which communication has changed over time. How often do we think about the way information travels?
  • Examine the Struggles for Participation primary source set. Discuss the similarities and differences of two different service men and women from two different wars set in different places and time periods.
  • Record a journal entry that explains how an experience of a veteran or a veteran’s family member inspired a change in their own life.
  • Choose a veteran.  Have students pretend they were selected to make a movie of the veteran’s experience: select three or four songs as the soundtrack.  Explain and defend why they chose those songs.

These posts published by divisions of the Library provide additional resources.  Check out Making Veterans’ Stories Come To Life by Danna Bell-Russel to find resources about the stories of veterans’ lives.  If your students need background knowledge about the history of Veterans Day, take a look at Remembering Armistice Day by Stacie Moats.  In The Eleventh Hour: Veterans Day by Jeff Bridgers, the Prints and Photographs division shares its launch of a set of World War I rotogravures. Our Veterans by Donna Scanlon of the Science, Technology, and Business division provides statistics about millions of military veterans.

How might you incorporate primary sources in honor of all who serve?



  1. Mary Johnson
    November 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for these wonderful personal examples! For those teachers who wish to incorporate oral history into their Veterans Day activities, the Veterans History Project has all the resources you need on its “How to Participate >> Especially for Educators & Students” page: http://www.loc.gov/vets/youth-resources.html. Here you will find sample interviews, an outstanding list of sample questions, instructions for conducting and recording oral history interviews, even a complete field guide kit. The guidelines suggest that grades lower than 10-12 “require significantly more guidance and supervision.” It’s worth the effort!

    November 2, 2012 at 3:15 am

    all us know that the life have 2 part important :1-work2-peace.when we are very hard working and we are amusing with work ,in fact we uses many veterans and experinces for that work or job or life.but it is very important that we transmission this veterans to young gender and confirms one day for that any persons write and talk about your veterans that help and development science and knowledge all peoples in country

  3. Jacqueline Brathwaite
    November 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Earnestine: Thank you for providing teachers, students and parents with primary sources that deepen our appreciation of American Veterans of wars. I appreciate the use of these resources in developing powerful connections for African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics.

    It is a source of pride to know that in spite of discriminatory practices, people of these groups served with distinction to protect and honor the country. I believe that history is important when you can see yourself included in it.

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