Every year on Veterans Day, people think about different ways to honor veterans. Some options are tributes and parades, but one of my favorites is listening to a veteran’s military story. You can take it a step further and record their experience for themselves, their family, and future generations to keep. You could put their story in a frame or scrapbook to preserve it. But with permission from the veteran, why not share their experience with others, including the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress?
The Veterans History Project (VHP) is part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and was created in 2000 by the United States Congress after legislation supported by representatives of the House and senators was passed. The legislation was then signed into law on October 27th, 2000, by President Bill Clinton. The purpose of the project is to collect and preserve military experiences while allowing future generations a chance to see into the realities of military life. VHP consists of firsthand stories in audio- and video-recorded interviews, memoirs, original photographs, letters, diaries, maps, and other historical documents. These stories are from veterans who served in World War I up to the present and are no longer serving. All branches of the military are welcome. Civilians who have also served the United States during wartime in a professional career are invited to participate. All of the stories in the project are contributed with the help of volunteers and organizations. VHP is perfect for families and friends to complete together. Boy and Girl Scout troops, as well as youth organizations are encouraged to participate.
One of the main purposes of the Veterans History Project is to provide history for the general public. People can access an online database on their website for research. The collection can be used for genealogy projects, documentaries, academic papers, and personal interests. Within the database, you can find biographical information on a veteran, as well as some digitalized collections. The biographical information contains the veteran’s name, the state of birth, and service history. Also, the Library of Congress includes some collections in their exhibits and presentations.
Want to participate and add your favorite veteran to VHP? First, start with reading the VHP Field Kit on the website. Within this kit, you will find an introduction to the project and information on how to participate. Also, a 15-minute long companion video to the field kit is available. Both of these packets help to prepare you for submitting veterans’ information and the guidelines to follow. Lastly, the field kit includes forms that must be submitted with the veteran’s materials. Once you and the veteran have gathered the information, send it to the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. There is no deadline for sending in information, since VHP is a continuing project. In addition to the collections, the project can be supported through donations from education and outreach efforts. Allow for four to six months for the record to be processed online.
Some tips to remember when submitting are: the “30-20-10 rule,” which states that 30 minutes is the minimum length for recorded interviews; 20 pages is the minimum for diaries, journals, and memoirs; and 10 is the minimum number of original photographs, maps, and letters, and is the minimum page limit for military documents. Materials sent in must be the originals and unedited recordings. Information can also be submitted electronically through DVDs and CDs and sent to the Library of Congress via ground shipping through UPS or FedEx. Lastly, Spanish and English field kits are available.
The Veterans History Project is a great way to remember your special veteran. This collection preserves his or her military experience on a national level, and people throughout the world can read about their heroic sacrifices to the United States during wartime. Through the help of this project, more veterans’ military experiences are being preserved and kept for future generations to learn about. Just one of the many ways we can say “thank-you” to those who served our country.
For more information, visit the Veterans History Project at www.loc.gov/vets.
Article originally published in Forsyth Family Magazine.