Mother Teresa once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Have you ever considered the impact you have on others? Without realizing it, you have the power to change someone’s course.
What if I told you that by sharing your story, you can create a ripple effect that could benefit countless individuals? The Veterans History Project (VHP) offers that opportunity. (pictured; U.S. Navy veteran Keith Sherman embraces Gold Star family members)
In 2000, the United States Congress passed legislation to create VHP under the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (Public Law 106-380, 2000). VHP’s mission is to collect, preserve and make accessible the firsthand narratives of our country’s military veterans and families of the fallen, better known as Gold Star family members.
Participating in VHP is simple, meaningful and leaves a lasting legacy. There are many ways to share a story, either through oral history interviews or original items such as photographs, letters, diaries, 2-dimensional artwork and other historical materials.
Whether you served in uniform or simply know someone who has, VHP is your chance to make history through participating as a volunteer contributor. Individuals and organizations across the nation sit down with the veterans or Gold Star family members in their lives and communities to help them gather materials, interview veterans within their communities and establish primary sources for our national library. Interested parties can find online resources through the VHP website at loc.gov/vets. The Field Kit and Field Kit companion video provide step-by-step instructions, required paperwork and sample questions for interviewing veterans.
For veterans, VHP is your opportunity to leave your imprint and to enrich our historical record. As World War II veteran Don Griffin noted, “These aren’t the stories in history books or TV. If we don’t tell our story, then nobody will know what transpired” (Griffin, 2004).
VHP is currently home to over 111,000 collections of veteran and Gold Star memories. These collections provide an invaluable cultural resource that informs the historical record and illuminates the times in which our nation’s veterans lived. They are accessible to the public and are used regularly by researchers, family members, historians and students. VHP collections have informed more than 800 different books, publications, films and other artistic productions including Ken Burns’ PBS docuseries “The Vietnam War (2017),” Liza Mundy’s book “Code Girls: The Untold Story of American Women Code Breakers of World War II (2017)” and Douglas Taurel’s “The American Soldier (2017)” performance. As the veteran or next of kin maintains the copyright to their story, permissions need to be obtained before using the interview or other materials in exhibition or publication.
While VHP has come a long way since its inception, there is still a long way to go. With over 17 million veterans in the United States today (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019), we need your help. All veterans deserve the opportunity to be remembered, so that their service and sacrifice for our country might not fade and be forgotten with the passage of time. Now is the time for you to cast your stone. Tell your story and discover the ripples your memories create.
For more information, visit loc.gov/vets/ or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848. Subscribe to the VHP RSS to receive periodic updates of VHP news. Follow VHP on Facebook @vetshistoryproject.