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VHP’s Newest Online Exhibit: Twenty Years of Service: Post 9/11 Veterans

Today the Veterans History Project (VHP) launches a new online exhibit, part of our Experiencing War web feature series. Titled “Twenty Years of Service: Post 9/11 Veterans,” the exhibit explores the stories of 12 veterans who served during and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Selected from VHP’s holdings of over 5,000 recent conflict veterans’ collections, these stories represent the unique experiences of veterans who served in the Middle East in the last 20 years.

A sketch of an African American soldier in uniform, sitting with her back to the viewer, holding a rifle and looking at a military base.

August page from a 2009 calendar with paintings in watercolor and oil paint by William Smock. Female soldier seated with rifle. William Smock Collection, Veterans History Project, AFC2001/001/77706.

September 11, 2001 was a watershed moment in American history. It changed the lives of members of the military who were currently serving, and inspired many to join in response. All of the featured veterans discuss the impact of that day on their service trajectories, and many relate their specific memories of the day itself. Joachin Marchand took his oath of enlistment on September 11, 2001, just moments before the attacks; as he said in his oral history interview, “It didn’t quite dawn on me what I had just done.” Serving in an internship with the State Department, Kimberly Mitchell was stationed in Washington, DC at the time, and recalled the palpable sense of chaos and fear in the city on that day. For Shilo Harris, September 11 was a galvanizing force, the moment in which he realized he needed to enlist. For veterans such as Rupa Dainer, Stephen Collins, and Joseph Beimfohr, who were already serving, the distant possibility of deployment became a reality.

No matter these veterans’ experiences on or after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, all of the featured collections offer the chance to hear directly from those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere during the War on Terror. This is a hallmark of VHP and the driving force behind everything that we do—to provide the space and opportunity for veterans to describe, in their own words, what they experienced, felt and witnessed during their time in the military, and how it has affected their lives. Now more than ever, it is critical that recent conflict veterans are given the chance to speak their mind—and that we take the time to listen.

An African American soldier wearing a helmet and combat uniform sits on top of a M1 Abrams tank, with a desert scene behind him.

Stephen Collins on top of a M1 Abrams tank, desert behind him, Camp Viper (Jalibah), Iraq. Stephen Collins Collection, Veterans History Project, AFC2001/001/11615.

As you remember and reflect on this solemn 20th anniversary, we hope that you take the time to explore the collections highlighted in the new exhibit. If you’re a veteran, please consider sharing your experience. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you or someone you know is in crisis – this recent article published by Government Executive includes multiple resources for help.

In the months to come, we’ll be releasing additional blog posts featuring the stories of veterans who served in the Middle East, along with a research guide relating to photograph collections of recent conflict veterans.

Arkansas: Home to Good Sweet Tea, Southern Hospitality and Amazing Veterans

The following is a guest blog post by Mitch Friesenborg, a summer intern in the office of U.S. Senator John Boozman (AR). He attends Harding University, and is a member of the Arkansas National Guard. In the year 2021, the United States is in relative peace. No teenager today is anxious at the chance they […]

VHP’s Newest Online Exhibit: Legacies of Service: Celebrating Native Veterans

Today the Veterans History Project (VHP) launches a new online exhibit, part of our Experiencing War web feature series. Entitled “Legacies of Service: Celebrating Native Veterans,” the exhibit explores the lives and service experiences of 18 Native veterans who served in conflicts from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the treatment of their […]

Motherhood and the Military

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As we rejoice in the splendor of a three-day weekend, it is imperative that we acknowledge the true purpose of Memorial Day: to remember our national history and guiding principles through paying homage to those who laid down their lives for the ideals we hold dear.  It’s a day to get to know these individuals, to […]

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VHP’s Newest Online Exhibit: The GI Bill: 75 Years of Opportunity

Today, the Veterans History Project launches a new online exhibit to commemorate the 75th anniversary of a piece of legislation that forever altered the American veteran experience: the GI Bill. In June 1944, Army Corporal John Kuhlman was in training at Fort Crook, Nebraska, and focusing on his eventual transfer overseas. While he anxiously considered […]

The Legacy of Fallen Service Members and the Kinsugi Gold Stars They Leave Behind

The legacy of a fallen service member is the memory of a grateful nation. We set aside Memorial Day to honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but what comes next? After that knock on the door, after TAPS is played and the folded flag is delivered, how can we pay tribute to […]

U.S. Marine Medal of Honor Recipients: Even Superman Needs Someone to Look Up To

The following is a guest blog post by Kerry Ward, liaison specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP), and is the third in a series of blog posts relating to the Medal of Honor. The recent slew of superhero films have me recognizing that while they are brilliant and entertaining, at movie’s end the superheroes […]