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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 […]


The following is a guest blog post by Rue Mayweather, Army veteran, author and mother. She is one of the participants on the Veterans History Project (VHP) virtual discussion panel, “Motherhood and the Military.” I still recall every detail from the day my bundle of joy arrived. In a moment, everything had changed. I had […]

Motherhood and the Military

The following is a post about the upcoming Veterans History Project (VHP) virtual discussion panel, “Motherhood and the Military.”  Watch the Folklife Today blog for an upcoming post from Motherhood and the Military panelist Rue Mayweather on May 4th. This second Sunday in May has been set aside for our nation to remember and celebrate […]

VHP Collections We Love: Marva Gray

This is the fourth in a series exploring favorite Veterans History Project collections, chosen by the staff of the American Folklife Center (AFC) and the Veterans History Project (VHP) to be included in our new online exhibit celebrating 20 years of VHP. Each post in the series will offer “love letters” written by AFC and […]

The Last Sunday in September

The last Sunday in September marks Gold Star Mothers and Family’s day- a day for our nation to show our profound gratitude and respect for the families of our fallen.  Last year, the Library of Congress invited Gold Star families to join us so that we could celebrate the lives, service and love of their […]

Food for Thought: Veteran Entrepreneurship and Post Traumatic Stress

Veteran-owned businesses are not a new concept.  In fact, 49.7 % of World War II veterans went on to own or operate a business, according to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Here is another statistic for you to chew on: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ most recent statistics estimate that one in […]

VHP’s Newest Online Feature: ‘First, Serve: Athletes in Uniform’

The following is a guest post by Matt McCrady, a Digital Conversion Specialist for the Library of Congress. Particularly during wartime, joining the military often means putting on hold important aspects of one’s life, such as college or marriage. Similarly, the unexpected draft notice can mean the end of a promising college athlete’s hope for […]

Collection Spotlight: “Be Loyal”: the Exemplary Service of Michel Marcos

The following is a guest post by Digital Conversion Specialist Matt McCrady. Born and raised in Lebanon, and immigrating to America in the late 1980s, Michel Marcos fought in two wars under the banners of two different countries. In his interview for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, his philosophy of service […]

Which One Do You Love Most?

It’s Valentine’s Day. It seems everyone has love on their minds today—at least half of us, anyway. Last year, the National Retail Federation predicted that 54.7% of the United States adult population was planning to celebrate the holiday with their significant others, friends or pets to the tune of nearly $20 billion. Yes, billion with […]