Every veteran has a story. Oral history is an empowering way to let veterans speak about their experience, whether it happened 50 years ago in Vietnam or more recently in Afghanistan.
My father, who passed away in 1991, served in the Army during the Korean War. He was proud that he served, but he didn’t talk much about his war experience. No one in my family really asked him about it, either. We figured that since he avoided the subject, his experience must have been traumatic. We all wish we had asked him more about it; talking about it with him might have strengthened our relationships with him. Now that he is gone, we will never know.
The Leavenworth Public Library will host “Veterans’ Voices: Oral History Workshop,” a workshop by Kaye McIntyre on Sunday, Nov. 3 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the library’s Jahn Room. Members of the community are invited to attend the free program.
Kaye McIntyre is the producer and host of “KPR Presents,” Kansas Public Radio’s weekly public affairs program. She also teaches political science at Longview Community College.
This workshop provides family, friends and community members the skills to interview those who served. For me personally, I wish I had attended something like this when my dad was still alive. Capturing his story might have helped him cope with whatever memories he had of his war experience. The only things he ever told us was that it was cold in Korea, that he found a large rat in his sleeping bag one time and that the food was terrible. They didn’t get any fresh vegetables while he was there. Unfortunately, this lead to a lot of dental problems later. He had a full set of false teeth when he was in his early thirties.
My dad was a very nervous, quiet and reserved person. If we had known what questions to ask him, we may have gained a better understanding of his personality in general. Going to war in a strange, far away country surely affected his anxious temperament.
“We sometimes feel like we don’t know how to ask veterans about their experience, or veterans seem reluctant to talk about their service,” said McIntyre. “This workshop includes recommendations for starting an interview, types of questions to ask and tips for documenting the discussion.”
“Veterans’ Voices: Oral History Workshop”is part of Humanities Kansas’s Movement of Ideas Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and workshops designed to share stories that inspire, spark conversations that inform, and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement.
While it is too late for me to learn about my dad’s time in the military, I encourage others with veteran family members who are still here to document their legacies. It is important for everyone to understand the sacrifices, duties and experiences, both good and bad, that our veterans faced during their service. Their stories are an important part of the family’s story, as well as the broader history of our nation.