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

Community Service Hero: Veterans Heritage Project Continues to Shine

The following is a guest post by Barbara Hatch, Veterans Heritage Project Founder and Program Director. The program is based in Arizona. To learn more about this organization, read our 2016 post about it here.

In 1998, students in my history classroom had seen the movie Saving Private Ryan and wanted to separate fact from fiction. I wrote a letter to a Phoenix VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) to locate a possible Normandy veteran who could speak directly to the students. Publication of the letter led to nightly phone calls from veterans eager to share their military experiences, which led to many classroom visits and veteran connections. When Salt River Project, an Arizona utility, offered a grant in 2004 to “document local history,” our program concept was born.

Anna Lucia Simone with Vietnam veteran Terry Mazzotta, whom she recently interviewed for Veterans Heritage Project’s reception/book signing, April 8, 2018 (Photo by Barbara Hatch)

We began as an after-school club with a dozen kids eager to interview veterans and publish their stories in an annual publication entitled Since You Asked. We learned that the Library of Congress had created the Veterans History Project in 2000 so the recorded interviews of our veterans would be preserved and cherished for generations. In 2009, parents whose sons and daughters had been in the program felt Connecting Students with Veterans was important for students in other schools as well, resulting in the establishment of Veterans Heritage Project (VHP) as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Today, VHP is in nearly 30 schools in Arizona.

We just completed Volume XIV of Since You Asked: A Salute to World War II, which contains the stories of 331 veterans interviewed this school year. In the past 14 years, 1,779 students have documented the stories of 1,824 veterans, making Veterans Heritage Project among the largest contributors to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. We are proud of that! Though we cannot archive all of our interviews, the veterans’ stories will live on in their families, local libraries and our books.

Barbara Hatch (L) with Michelle DiMuro receiving the Community Service Hero Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society on March 23, 2018 at Brucker Hall, Fort Myer, Virginia (Photo by Lori Brown)

On March 23, 2018, our Executive Director Michelle DiMuro and I were honored to receive the Community Service Hero Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The national award recognized a community-based organization for its exceptional impact in supporting our nation’s military service members and families. Even more special, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients selected VHP for the award and presented it to us personally. Besides sharing lunches, dinners and the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with our Medal of Honor veterans, we received a certificate and medal from the Society that proudly greets visitors to our new office. We shared the celebration with two young men who each received the Singular Hero Act award. One of the men saved lives in the Las Vegas shooting and another saved parishioners at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in La Vergne, Tennessee; a 13-year-old boy who rescued 17 people during Hurricane Harvey was awarded the Young Hero Award; and a Georgia woman was given the Ongoing Service Act for working with veteran service organizations. We came back to Arizona with a renewed mission to interview more veterans by adding more chapter schools to the program, even beyond Arizona.

World War II veteran Alex Kislik autographs a copy of Since You Asked for an excited guest, April 8, 2018. (Photo by Barbara Hatch)

On Sunday, April 8, 2018, we hosted our annual reception and book signing for over 1,000 members of our VHP community at DoubleTree Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is the first of six receptions to be held around Arizona as the remaining five regional editions of Since You Asked are released. Students had the chance to see their veterans again and have their books signed. Louis A. Conter, LCDR, USN (Ret.), our keynote speaker and one of the last four survivors of the USS Arizona bombing on December 7, 1941, spoke to the guests. Fifty World War II veterans processed into the venue to open the program. Family members carried photos for those who had passed away. Three World War II veterans—Bud Fischer, Army Air Corps pilot, Europe; John Eloff, Pacific Marine on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima; and Ennis Miller, Army MP who attended the Nuremberg Trials in 1945—along with three students, told the audience their favorite VHP memory as well as what the interview meant to them personally. Students represented an alumnus who is now a pediatric anesthesiologist, a current high school junior and a two-year VHP student still in middle school. We also have chapters at our community colleges.

As we savor the memories of the stories we captured and the reconnections we made earlier this month, students are eager to begin Volume XV of Since You Asked: A Salute to the Korean War. Interviews will begin soon, even before these young people head off to summer vacation. They want to archive the stories of these singular veterans in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project collection while there is still time. Perhaps they will even be able to hand deliver them in Washington, D.C., as they did last summer.

By the Numbers: Crowdsourcing a Veterans History Project

The following is a guest blog post by Owen Rogers, a Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). This is the final post in a six-part Women’s History Month series. Through VHP’s online database, we learn about the women veterans who make history. What about the women who record it? In addition to the […]

‘Nevertheless, She Persisted’ : Saluting Military Healers

In honor of Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate historic women’s achievements, the Veterans History Project (VHP) presents a six-part series of blog posts highlighting the many amazing accomplishments of the women who bravely volunteered for our Armed Services. The following is the fifth post in this series. This year’s National Women’s History Month theme […]

Female Firsts: Pioneering Women Veterans through the Years

The following is a guest blog post by Andrew Huber, a Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP). This is the third post in a six-part series highlighting women veterans’ collections from the VHP archive in recognition of Women’s History Month. The story of women in the military is a story of firsts. Women […]

Blazing Trails and Taking Names: Women in the Military

The following is the second post in a six-part series highlighting women veterans’ collections from the Veterans History Project (VHP) archive in recognition of Women’s History Month. (Note: Due to the closure of all DC-area Federal Government buildings on March 2, 2018, the Women’s History Month book talk  featuring Liza Mundy  has been canceled. Stay […]

Sharpened Pencils and Sharper Minds: World War II Women Code Breakers

The following is the first post in a six-part series highlighting women veterans’ collections from the Veterans History Project (VHP) archive in recognition of Women’s History Month. Imagine coming across this job announcement today: Candidates must be highly skilled in math and linguistics, willing to relocate and able to keep a secret to the death. […]

Collection Spotlight: William H. Dillard Wins Olympic Gold

London, summer, 1948. All eyes were on the first Olympic Games held since 1936. After years of war, representatives from around the world met in venues like the track field stadium, the swimming pool and the boxing ring, instead of on the battlefield. At Wembley Stadium, six runners crouched on the track for the finals […]

Take Note! Court Reporters and Captioners Transcribe Interviews for Veterans History Project

The following is a guest blog post by April Weiner, Foundation Manager at National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF). Veterans History Project (VHP) is very grateful for the long-time participation of the National Court Reporters Association and Foundation in their work to conduct and transcribe interviews.  While VHP does not require interviews to be transcribed, the […]

Shooting War – Framing History, Part III

The following is the third of a three-part blog post focusing on Military Photographers. You can read the original post HERE and the second post HERE. During the tremendous upheaval of the 1960s and with the Vietnam War in full effect, the country was in desperate need of emotive displays of patriotism while still accurately recording […]