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A Gift to Future Generations: The Veterans History Project

by Jamie Stevenson


Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifice that veterans have made for our country and an opportunity to create a more meaningful experience for the veterans in your community. One way you can create a lasting memory of service is to record the story of a veteran in your life and contribute it to the Veterans History Project.

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was launched in 2000 to collect, preserve, and share the first-person recollections of American war veterans. These accounts ensure that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

These stories can be told a number of ways – but most often, through personal narratives. Volunteers from across the country record first-hand interviews of America's wartime veterans. In addition to these oral histories, VHP also collects original photographs, letters, diaries, memoirs, maps and other wartime documents.

U.S. Veterans who served in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Persian Gulf War, and the current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are invited to share their experiences. In addition, U.S. civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts such as war industry or USO workers, flight instructors or medical volunteers are encouraged to contribute their story to the VHP as well.

Hundreds of community outreach programs nationwide – the United States Congress; colleges, universities and schools; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; civic organizations; faith-based groups; veteran-service organizations; and libraries – have contributed stories of veterans to the Project. Currently, all branches of the military are represented by veterans from every congressional district in all 50 states and U.S. Territories.

The Library of Congress provides a free step-by-step toolkit to individuals or groups who may wish to contribute. The kit includes instructions on the kinds of questions to ask, which type of recording equipment to use, required forms, and where to send your completed collection.

Give a gift to future generations by making your own contribution to the Veterans History Project. Record the story of a veteran in your life so that his or her story can become a part of the permanent collection at the Library of Congress.

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