Preserving the History of Our Veterans  

By Diane M. Loeffler

 

Like so many baby boomers, I remember watching World War II based television shows. My clearest memory is how during almost every show, Dad would stand up and say, “That’s not the way it was at all!” My father passed away in 2001, so he is no longer able to correct the Hollywood depictions of the war. However, if you are one of the men and women in Sun City Center who have served our country in the military, you can make sure that future generations have an accurate picture of what those years were like. Civilians who served in support of a U.S. war effort in a professional capacity are also welcome to participate. History is best written one story at a time. Share your story.

 

When and Where to Share Your Story

On the third Friday of each month, volunteers conduct interviews between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Sun Towers. All veterans who are not currently serving, not just those from WWII, should call 813 634-3347 to schedule a time. Interviews typically last 30-45 minutes. Interviews are recorded and you will receive a DVD a month or so later.

Deborah Decker, a Red Cross Volunteer, Veteran’s History Project, says, “In probably every interview I get surprised about something or another. One thing that sort of surprised me most was the treatment of women in the military. In the 1970’s if women were under 21 or 22, they had to get permission from their fathers to sign up.”

If you cannot get to Sun Towers, there are other interview sites. Decker says if necessary, “We can go to homes or to locations that are convenient to them.”

 

Why Veterans Should Participate

Decker says, “This is more for the family than it is for the veteran. It is a way for them to share their experiences with their families. A DVD of the interview is created so that the family can hear the story without the veteran having to repeat it. Instead of bits and pieces, wouldn’t it be great to have it all on a DVD for your children and grandchildren?”

Decker says, “My dad would never talk about it his experiences… I know nothing of my husband’s time in Viet Nam. For future generations, we need to understand what transpired in the past.”

Kathy Williams acts as the contact person for the project scheduling interview appointments at Sun Towers and contacting vets to pick up their DVDs. Williams says, “In the case of one World War II veteran, I called to tell him that I had a copy of the DVD for him. I learned from his wife that the veteran had passed away. His widow picked up the copy. Later, she called and thanked us. She said her husband had never talked about his war experiences. She said the family all got together and listened to what he had to say. The widow said, ‘Leaving that memory was one of the best things he could have done.’”

Sun Towers hosts quarterly get-togethers for those who participate in the project. “Wine, beer and hot hors d’oeuvres are served. These gatherings are for participants in the Veterans History Project only. This is an opportunity to share stories, including funny stories.”

 

How the Legacy Is Preserved

The Red Cross submits the interviews to The Library of Congress where they are stored as a CD or DVD. A few become digitized. Forms go in a folder at the Library of Congress. Decker says, “They really do track all of this. It is a fabulous place to bank their photos and to save for posterity, for future generations. Go to “libraryofcongress.gov” to see interviews and interviewers.”

 

 

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