Veterans’ Voices: Capturing Oral History

by Cindy McGuire, Programming/Marketing Coordinator

Veterans’ stories represent a unique and valuable source of oral history. Last November, the Library hosted a program presented by Kansas Public Radio’s (KPR) Kaye McIntyre called “Veterans’ Voices: Oral History Workshop.” She outlined the project in which KPR participated as part of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress in 2017. While we wanted McIntyre to share the veterans’ stories she collected and her ideas with patrons, we had an ulterior motive: we contemplated launching a project like this at the Library and wanted to tap into her expertise.    

As a result of her guidance and some additional research, we are now ready to launch our own Veterans’ Voices project. Our goal is to record and archive the personal stories of veterans and their first deployment. We plan to put together an oral history documentary that samples those stories and maintain an archive of all complete interviews here at the Library. Both resources will be available on our website. We may also add them to the Library of Congress’ project later on.

We invite local veterans to participate. Due to limited time, we will conduct interviews with the first 15 veterans who respond by Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020. We hope to expand the scope of the project in the future and grow a truly great resource that will reflect many times, places and experiences.

As I mentioned previously in this column, my dad served in the Korean War in 1951. He never talked about his year of deployment other than one or two tidbits. My dad was not a particularly patriotic person and it was apparent that he didn’t enjoy being in a war. However, I do know he was proud to have served. When we went through some old boxes recently, we found records my grandmother had saved from the time of his service. We discovered that he was in the Reserves for several years afterward, but was never recalled to duty. He never mentioned this to any of us, including my mother.

For my family, it is too late to learn what happened during my father’s military service, what his impressions were being drafted and sent far away from home and why he decided to be in the Reserves. With the Library’s project, we hope to capture some of this information from local veterans that can be shared with their families, friends and the community.

Veterans who would like to participate in the Library’s project by sharing the story of their first deployment can contact Zach Baker, our Kansas Room librarian, at 913-682-5666 ext. 2200 or kansasrm@lvplks.org.