The following is a guest post by Andrew Huber, Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP).
As students have returned to school across the country, young people are learning not just about reading, writing and arithmetic, but about service, honor and sacrifice as well.
Classrooms and student groups nationwide take part in the Veterans History Project, whether by utilizing our wealth of primary source research for school projects, or by actually going out and conducting interviews with veterans in their community. No matter how students choose to participate, VHP is a unique and memorable learning experience.
While we appreciate every person and organization that contributes to our archives, some consistently go above and beyond the others, such as organizations like ISCOPES at the George Washington University. ISCOPES is a group of medical students who listen to veterans, oftentimes from underserved populations, and record their stories for VHP as part of their community outreach efforts. ISCOPES students have contributed many fascinating stories, including one from Kimberly Davis of Washington, DC. Davis had a long and illustrious career in the Army as a drill sergeant, master fitness trainer and a senior jumpmaster. During her interview, she recounts her experiences and the difficulties of being a lesbian in the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” era. She discusses being the subject of false allegations of misconduct leading to an investigation that ultimately cleared her name.
In addition to colleges and medical schools like GWU, many high schools participate in VHP as well. Harlem High School in Illinois and ELCO High School in Pennsylvania both have very active VHP programs. Harlem High School’s Harlem Veteran Project won Honorable Mention at the 2015 White House Student Film Festival for their entry documenting their work collecting VHP interviews. These interviews join nearly 350 donated by the Illinois WWII Memorial Board Classroom Project.
ELCO High School students too have put in an incredible effort collecting interviews. Students there have completed and donated 113 VHP interviews so far, including the story of Jonathan Bickel, a pilot in WWII who flew dozens of missions over France and Germany, clearing a path through the Nazi defenses for the invasion force that landed at Normandy.
If you are a teacher, adding VHP interviews to your curriculum can be a fun and rewarding classroom activity. To find out how you can make VHP a part of your school year, be sure to visit our, “Especially for Educators” page for ideas, guidelines, primary source sets and other information. You can also download lesson plans that involve VHP interviews and research from contributing organizations like Central Connecticut State University and PBS:
There is no limit to what you can do with VHP in your classroom, and VHP staff can help you get started. Simply visit us at loc.gov.vets, then email us at [email protected] with any questions. There are untold numbers of veterans waiting to tell their stories to your students, whether they are family members, school employees or people in the community. If your students don’t collect them, who will?