Memorial Day is a time for our country to remember and honor the men and women who have given their lives for our liberty and freedom. This solemn day also gives Americans an opportunity to reflect on our past. There is a great deal that can be learned from the experiences of those who have served our nation during a time of war. There are almost 19 million veterans living in the United States, but every day we lose well over one thousand of them. With the passing of each veteran, our nation loses a valuable and important part of its history.
To ensure veterans’ stories are not permanently lost, in 2000 Congress authorized the Veterans History Project. Through the Library of Congress, the project has collected tens of thousands of personal accounts from American veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars, as well as the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Collecting and preserving veterans’ personal accounts through the Veterans History Project is a great way for Americans to pay tribute to our veterans and fallen soldiers. Memorial Day represents an ideal time for individuals to make plans to participate in this worthwhile national effort.
VETERANS HISTORY PROJECT
Since its creation, the Veterans History Project has generated a great amount of interest and fortunately led to active participation by America’s veterans. The collection chronicles the experiences and contributions of both military and civilian personnel – from wartime factory workers and nurses to all ranks of every branch of our military. All told, the Veterans History Project represents the largest oral history collection in the world.
The project builds on our nation’s ever-evolving collective memory and will provide for a common narrative from the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who fought for this country. Interviews are being conducted primarily through oral history, using audio or video recording equipment, which provides the raw accounts of how each person felt during their wartime experience. To supplement these stories, individuals are encouraged to submit pictures, maps, letters, diaries, and other memorabilia.
Through the Veterans History Project, our country will have a comprehensive and searchable national catalog of all oral histories and documents collected as part of this undertaking. The result will be a virtual history book that ensures our veterans’ stories will live on even after they are gone.
IMPORTANT NATIONAL MISSION
Capturing veterans’ stories and experiences while they are still with us is an important national mission. This is particularly true of World War II veterans, so the time to act on this project is now.
This summer represents a good opportunity for all Mississippians to participate in the Veterans History Project. This is especially true for the students who are on break from the classroom. Numerous young Mississippians have grandparents or other relatives who have served in the military and may have fascinating stories that could be shared for this national collection. Additionally, the project provides an opportunity for veterans to interview other veterans to compare their experiences.
This summer, I plan to participate in this project by interviewing my father, Judge Fred Wicker. A World War II veteran, my father landed on Omaha Beach shortly after the battle of Normandy. Like so many others from his generation, he has unique stories about his experience in the war. I am glad to have the opportunity to help him capture his story for this important historical collection.
Individuals interested in joining me in participating in the Veterans History Project can find instructions and guidelines at the Library of Congress’ website, www.loc.gov/vets, or by calling 1-888-371-5848. A link to the Veterans History Project can also be found at my website: www.wicker.senate.gov.
As we gather with friends and loved ones at picnics, parades, and other events on Memorial Day, it is important that we remember the sacrifices made by so many. This year, I encourage you to do something extra to honor those sacrifices by participating in the Veterans History Project. The project is both an important learning tool and a living memorial, and with your help, it can become an even greater national treasure for generations to come.
Senator Wicker is an Air Force veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees.