By: Kerry Ward
The Veterans History Project (VHP) is one of the Library of Congress’ most popular projects and is the largest oral history project in the country. Its congressional mandate is to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of U.S. veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of their selfless service.
Since 2000, VHP of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has helped more than 110,000 veterans across the nation to preserve their firsthand recollections. In addition to the interviews, they also donate other historical materials, such as original photos, letters, diaries, journals, two-dimensional artwork and official military documents, at a rate of about 100 per week. VHP engages veterans from every branch of service and their loved ones and is used by researchers, educators, students, authors, filmmakers and the general public.
Relying on a nationwide network of partner organizations and individual volunteers to interview veterans, VHP receives an average of 300 new collections every month. Participants include veteran service organizations, high schools and colleges, Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, retirement communities, historical societies and perhaps most importantly the families and friends of veterans. VHP educates and connects generations while also honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans through the telling of their stories.
VHP has developed into a growing national effort that is creating a rich legacy of veterans’ stories and experiences that are being archived in the Library of Congress where they will support researchers and provide inspiration for generations to come.
A 2011 Pew Research Center survey suggests that 61% of Americans have an immediate family member (spouse, sibling, parent or child) who has served in the Armed Forces since World War II. VHP’s goal is to capture as many of those stories as possible while there is still time.
If you are veteran, share your story with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. If you are a civilian, volunteer to record the story of the veteran in your life. Either way, we need you to act now—not just for yourselves, but for future generations.
For veterans, this is your opportunity to share your most intimate memories with someone who is genuinely interested in hearing every word, and who will appreciate the sacrifice you made for your country. When you participate in this Project, you will answer the call to duty once more by leaving a legacy for generations to come.
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.