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Image of the tomb of the unknown soldier and other sections of Arlington National Cemetary
Aerial view of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington, Virginia. Carol Highsmith

Remembering the Fallen and Documenting their Stories

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As we move to the end of May we take a moment to honor members of the U.S. military who gave their lives in service to our country. In previous blog posts we have explored the transition from Decoration Day to Memorial Day and the ways some people choose to honor those who have given the greatest sacrifice for our country.

Though Memorial Day honors those in the military we have lost, it also provides an opportunity to explore and document the stories of all veterans living and dead. The Veterans History Project has been collecting the stories of members of the military since 2000.

Veterans History Project Home page

An act of Congress directs the Library of Congress American Folklife Center to establish an oral history program “to collect video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of American war veterans.” Though the Veterans History Project, as noted on their website, started out collecting oral histories, the scope has expanded to include other original source materials, such as letters, diaries, and photographs and in 2016 to include “oral histories from “family members of the Armed Forces who died as a result of their service during a period of war.”

A recent blog post noted that the Veterans History Project has an updated website. We encourage you to explore the new site to learn more about the program, explore the collections, or find answers to questions about the project.

The site includes story maps documenting how soldiers and their families included artwork in their correspondence and the experiences of those who fought during D-Day. You can also use the navigation bar on the left side of the Serving Our Voice page to find stories about specific events or groups and their experiences during wartime. Two primary source sets on the Teachers Page highlight specific interviews from the Veterans History Project and also those who struggled to participate in the military. The primary source sets include teachers guides with tips on how to use these materials in the classroom.

Let us know in the comments how you will use the Veterans History Project with your students.

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