The following is a guest post by Veterans History Project (VHP) Liaison Specialist Owen Rogers.
Looking back on my childhood, whether it was the time I borrowed Ernie Pyle’s “Brave Men” from my father’s bookshelf, or when my mother taught me how to thin acrylic paints for my model airplanes, it is clear to me that our parents’ interests, behaviors and affections steer us toward the people we are today. From the vantage point of a veterans’ oral history archive, the path towards my chosen career saw early beginnings.
Nevertheless, these reunions occur both early and later in life. For example, the Cain family offers a thoughtful father-son connection through their participation with VHP. Within the archive, the efforts of both Michael and Jason Cain yield a meaningful conduit for veterans’ individual stories of service.
I met Jason, the son, a U.S. Army veteran and current Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, shortly after he participated in an oral history session at the 2012 National Book Festival. Months later, Jason interviewed Arkansas Lieutenant Governor and former Representative John Timothy “Tim” Griffin (AR-2) about his Judge Advocate General (JAG) service in Iraq. From one veteran to another, the oral history session yielded a collegial exploration of recent conflicts. As a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, Jason has been on both sides of the VHP process and always speaks highly of the Project.
When veterans like myself who served in Iraq and Afghanistan include their stories in the Veterans History Project, it adds a richness to the collection because you’re able to compare our experiences to those who served in World War One, World War Two and Vietnam.
While Jason was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, his father, Michael, resettled in the adjacent Fayetteville community. When his son was honorably discharged from the Army, however, Michael remained in the veteran-rich community, and I eventually learned of his efforts through a Legislative Assistant at the Office of Senator Carl Levin (MI). At the time, Michael led a journaling therapy program at Fort Bragg and was eager to incorporate VHP into the veterans’ community.
Through community connections at the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion and the Airborne and Special Operations Museum (ASOM), Michael began an oral history initiative that simultaneously expands the collections of ASOM and VHP. As a testament to his tireless efforts, I requested an image for this blog post, to which he replied,
I don’t have any pics of me from the interviews, but I’m doing two this afternoon. I’ll see what I can come up with.
A Pew Research survey suggests that 61% of Americans have an immediate family member who served in the U.S. military since World War II. Whether this bond tethers fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters or a veteran in your neighborhood, these relationships afford opportunity for us to preserve that service in an impactful way.
Be you a mother, father, son or daughter, download a VHP Field Kit and interview the veteran in your life. Use the comments section below to tell us about your family’s military connections.