The following is a guest blog post by Andrew Huber, a liaison specialist for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). It is the second in a series from VHP staff. Go here to read the first article.
As job titles go, mine might be one of the least informative in all of the federal government. I’m a Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project, but what does that mean? With whom do I liaise, and why? I’ll be honest, when I first saw this job listed and applied, even I didn’t know!
As it turns out, I am a liaison to pretty much everybody. My job is to get people interested and involved in interviewing veterans for VHP, so I end up talking to a whole lot of different people. Working with a congressional office to set up a training session for their staff so they can interview veterans in their state or district, coordinating with the organizers of a veteran-related conference to submit a proposal to be a speaker at their event or emailing teachers who want me to give a lesson to their class are all very typical items on my agenda. It’s all about finding creative ways to teach people that VHP exists and needs their help, because once people find out who we are and what we do, they’re nearly always enthusiastic about our mission.
Once the pandemic hit, and the Library of Congress temporarily closed to protect the health and safety of staff and visitors, the switch from working in an office to working at home was actually quite easy for me. Most of my work was already accomplished using email and phone calls to coordinate events, activities, workshops and campaigns with people all over the country, so nothing much changed in that regard. However, actually getting to lead in-person events and workshops has always been my favorite part of the job, so losing those has been tough—especially the events where I get to watch the veteran interviews happen. Even after more than five years on the job, their stories still leave me in awe. I also had to cancel some work travel that I was really looking forward to, like going to Montana to record the stories of Native American veterans, which was incredibly disappointing.
However, the benefits of full time telework are undeniable. Having a simplified morning routine and no commute to or from work has given me about two extra hours of my day back. The flexibility in my hours has made working with people in different time zones much easier. Also, Griffin, my retriever mix, is loving me being home to give him an extra walk on my lunch break!
The other great thing about teleworking is that with scheduled live events and travel being cancelled, it has given me time to work on building new skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise had time to learn. Since the pandemic started, I have completed an advanced oral history class from the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University, among others useful to my work.
Right now, my biggest project is building on years of VHP’s recognition of National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month to organize an online panel discussion to highlight veteran-owned businesses, and explore how veterans with PTSD can overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities available to them to start their own company. I love working on projects like this because you can see right away how it makes a difference. Owning your own business is one of the bedrock elements of the American dream, and highlighting the personal experiences of veterans who have achieved that dream will be a great accomplishment.
Working for the Veterans History Project has been by far the best working experience of my life. The people I meet and the stories I hear every day inspire me, remind me that there is no other job in the world like mine, and that I’m very lucky to have it. And for anyone out there thinking about sending your story in, but are worried that it might not be interesting or exciting or noteworthy enough, stop worrying! The stories that are the most inspirational are often ones with the veterans describing those same worries. Every veteran’s story is important, especially yours.