Veterans and their families can pay it forward this holiday season without even reaching for their wallets. The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project (VHP) is looking for firsthand accounts of service from the military community in support of preserving such stories and informing generations to come.
“This is a living legacy, because they then go on to inform researchers, [library] users, family members, members of Congress,” said VHP acting director Monica Mohindra.
Legislators and their staffs use the veterans’ accounts to better understand the military experience and for talking points in speeches and when meeting with constituents.
“High school students are using them for projects. Artists use them for everything from creating murals to, believe it or not, there has been commissioned choreography that’s been based on collections at the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project,” she added.
Exploring the VHP
Congress created the VHP in 2000 with AARP as a founding corporate sponsor. Since then, the collection has amassed over 112,000 individual stories from those who served in World War I through today.
“In addition to providing initial major funding for the project, AARP also spread the word to its legion of volunteers and millions of members, encouraging them to get involved. Numerous state chapters continue to be involved in the project,” said Mohindra.
Of those 112,000 stories, 60percent are digitized and available online. To make the collection more accessible, the library curated them, similar to an online exhibition, into 72 categories and highlights additional stories on its Facebook page.
Donate your own or another veteran’s story
The VHP accepts materials of living or deceased service members but there are some requirements: Original audio or video interviews must be at least 30 minutes long, original photos or mail correspondence must be 10 or more pages, and unpublished memoirs or diaries should be 20 or more pages.
(Recently, the son of a World War II veteran donated nearly 900 photographs his father took while deployed. You can view some of them here.)
“During the holidays, it’s something a lot more meaningful than just passing a present across the table,” said Mohindra. “Set up the time now to interview the veteran in your life around whatever holiday is meaningful to you.”
To begin submission of a firsthand account, visit the VHP online or call 888-371-5848. This video provides a detailed walk-through of the process. And if you don’t have an account to share, the VHP accepts financial donations here.
Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.