{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/folklife.php' }

Working Together Apart: Growing Even More Appreciative of Vietnam Veterans

The following is a guest blog post by Candace Milburn, a processing technician for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). It is the fifth in a series from VHP staff. Click on the following names to read previous articles in this series:

While teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic these past few months, I’ve learned so much by reading some of the most intriguing blog posts from my VHP colleagues and other Library of Congress employees! They have all inspired me to write this article about my personal telework experience. I wrote another guest blog post in 2017, but it’s amazing how creativity and innovation is continuing virtually throughout the Library—even in these uncertain times.

Before the pandemic, a typical morning for me was to wake up at the crack of dawn to beat the rush hour traffic, and arrive at work by 6:30 am to begin processing oral history interviews and manuscript materials. By the time I left the house each day, my husband and kids, ages 11 to 18 were usually still enjoying a good night of sleeping!

Then the whole world changed.

VHP Processing Technician Candace Milburn teleworking from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020.

These days I do all my work on a laptop at my bedroom desk while the rest of the family is busy with their own schoolwork or other activities. They are all pretty independent, and have been good about not disturbing me during the work day.

Photograph of Dennis Martin, Vietnam, ca. 1970. Dennis Martin Collection, Veterans History Project (AFC2001/001/73202).

Even though I would normally work hands-on with the collections, I was ecstatic when given the telework project opportunity to transcribe the correspondence of Dennis “Denny” Martin’s collection.  Martin was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. He wrote several letters to his family concerning his personal experiences during basic and advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, and his service in Vietnam as a Corporal; VHP holds more than 20 of them in the archive. In one of his letters, he describes waiting to go to Vietnam as “a lonesome worried type of waiting.” I can’t even imagine waiting to be sent off to war. The sacrifice made by these service members blows my mind!

Photograph of Dennis Martin, Vietnam, ca. 1970. Dennis Martin Collection, Veterans History Project (AFC2001/001/73202).

Martin provides a detailed description of the equipment he carried in a Cu Chi field with him, and requests that his sister make him an ammunition vest. He also talks about being a part of a force along the Cambodian border for the Cambodian Incursion. Through his letters, you can tell how much Martin loved his family. He was determined to get a good deal on a nice quality camera for his father.

Sadly, Martin was killed in action in Vietnam on July 10, 1970—exactly 50 years ago today. His sister, Barbara Martin, donated the letters to VHP along with more than a dozen photographs. When she gave these treasured, sentimental items to VHP, she wrote:

 Somehow Denny’s death [has] some meaning if his letters could be a part of history. I wanted others to know how he felt about being in Vietnam.

Barbara is one of many Gold Star Family members who made the tough, but much appreciated, choice to donate their deceased veteran’s original materials to VHP. She even wrote and recorded a song about the experience titled I Won’t Forget. What a beautiful way to honor and preserve his memory.

Candace Milburn with her uncle William “Koby” Thomas at the Library of Congress, 2014.

I find Vietnam veteran collections particularly interesting because my uncle is also a Vietnam veteran. Reflecting on my career with VHP, I am most proud of being able to interview my uncle, William Thomas, also known as “Koby,” at a VHP Veteran’s Day event at the Library of Congress in 2014. I learned more about him in 34 minutes than I ever knew.

While visiting my grandmother as a young child, I found some of my entertainment in looking through old photo albums. (We didn’t have cell phones, social media and TikTok videos to keep us occupied in the mid 1980’s.) In my grandmother’s photo album there were all sorts of pictures of my uncle in Vietnam. He served in the Army as a sergeant, and in his interview, he discusses everything from basic training experiences at Fort Bragg to hand-to-hand combat in Vietnam. I now have so much more context for those old photos than I did back then. Because Uncle Koby’s story is now archived at VHP, generations of our family, and anyone else who is interested, will have the same opportunity to learn about this great American hero.

I discovered that Dennis Martin and my Uncle Koby have something in common other than having their military experiences preserved at VHP for future generations; they both received the Combat Infantryman Badge for their excellent service and sacrifice. Shout out to all the Vietnam veterans! You rock!

VHP Processing Technician Candace Milburn at her bedroom work station during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020.

Working with the Veterans History Project’s archive for 14 years has been an amazing journey for me. I’ve learned so much about the sacrificial service of U.S. military veterans, and am proud to help preserve their stories and make them accessible to the public. We honor and salute them every day!

Arlo Guthrie Birth Announcement by Woody Guthrie Featured at No Depression

As our readers may remember, we’ve been working with No Depression, The Journal of Roots Music, which is published by the nonprofit Freshgrass Foundation. They’re publishing a column called Roots in the Archive, featuring content from the American Folklife Center and Folklife Today. The latest Roots in the Archive column is about the Arlo Guthrie birth announcement, a fantastic manuscript item from the Alan Lomax Collection. The Arlo Guthrie birth announcement is a handwritten, illustrated letter created by Woody Guthrie to announce the birth of his son Arlo. It was sent by Woody to his friend Alan Lomax in 1947. Typed and embellished with finger-painted lettering, the announcement is in the form of a handmade greeting card, a single sheet folded in half to form a front and back cover and a center spread. The front consists of stylized line art representing a mother and baby, a greeting to the Lomax family, and the name “Arlo Guthrie,” painted in several different styles and colors. The back consists of the words “Here I Am” in large painted letters. Both sides bear the date, and the name “Arlo Guthrie” written in Woody’s handwriting. Read more about it at the link!

The column also features the whimsical text of the birth announcement, which is written in the voice of baby Arlo, and my own thoughts on this one-of-a-kind manuscript. Of course, the American Folklife Center also has many more resources related to Woody Guthrie, and you can find out more about those in the column too.

Turning the Tides in the Pacific

This is the fourth blog post in a series marking the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II, and will feature an “Aviator Flight Log Book,” which will be available during the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in September 2020. There are certain moments in life that stay with you forever.  “Flashbulb memories,” as Lisa Taylor points out in […]

Perspectives on remote fieldwork & finishing a project

This guest post is by two of our current Archie Green Fellows, Joe O’Connell and Josephine McRobbie. They received a 2019 fellowship from the American Folklife Center to conduct an Occupational Folklife Project focused on midwives and doulas in North Carolina. You can read more about their award in a post from last year. We […]

Vast folk music festival collection now described online

This is a guest post by archivist Maya Lerman. We’re pleased to announce that the finding aid for the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) collection is now online. The collection includes broad documentation from the National Folk Festival, the Lowell Folk Festival, and other major cultural events. Its acquisition marks a significant expansion […]

Homegrown Plus: Lakota John Locklear and Kin

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with Lakota John Locklear and kin, a blues family band of Native American heritage. Lakota John, born in 1997, blends traditional styles of the […]

Working Together Apart: Finding the Bright Side

The following is a guest blog post by Justina Moloney, an archivist for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). It is the fourth in a series from VHP staff. Click on the following names to read previous articles in this series: Tamika Brown– Processing Technician Andrew Huber– Liaison Specialist Tracey Dodson– Administrative Officer […]

American Folklife Center Fellowships and Awards 2020

The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of its three competitive annual fellowships and awards programs: the Archie Green Fellowships, the Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Award, and Henry Reed Fund Award. This year, these three awards went to twelve projects throughout the […]

Volunteering Against the Odds

This is the third blog post in a series marking the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II, and will feature an “Aviator Flight Log Book,” which will be available during the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in September 2020. In the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany’s shadow was cast over much of Western Europe, but with world domination […]