Q&A: Veterans History Project 

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q: What is the Veterans History Project?

A: Congress passed legislation in 2000 to launch the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The project engages the American public to recognize and document the heroism, bravery and patriotism of the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during periods of war to defend and preserve our freedoms and way life. The Library of Congress accepts audio-and-video recorded oral history interviews of U.S. military veterans who served from World War I through present day conflicts. The project to date has collected oral histories from veterans in all 50 states and U.S. territories. For those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Congress expanded the project in 2016 to include oral histories provided by Gold Star Families, as told by a parent, spouse, sibling or child (minimum age of 18) of service members who died as a result of their wartime service. Military service during times of war reflects a noble call to duty, patriotism and sacrifice. When the Veterans History Project was signed into law on Oct. 27, 2000, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported nearly 19 million war veterans lived in the United States. At that time, about 3,400 living veterans served in World War I and six million from World War II. And of those, nearly 1,500 were dying per day. Congress recognized that a sacred link to our nation’s history and heritage would slip into silence unless America did something to give voice to the realities of war, service and sacrifice from our veterans. Their stories merit the nation’s regard and recognition. The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and offers the most comprehensive, curated archives of recorded human history. Cataloguing and collecting the unfiltered personal stories of America’s war heroes provides powerful testimony of sacrifice, human suffering, heroism, patriotism, courage and character to hand down from one generation to the next. The Veterans History Project offers citizens in local communities across the United States to help make sure the stories of their local hometown heroes are archived in the annals of American history. From “the boys of Pointe du Hoc” who scaled the cliffs on the beaches of Normandy, to the GI’s who swung machetes day and night to clear swaths of jungle during the Vietnam War, to the men and women who served in the desert sands of the Persian Gulf, the love and loyalty for one’s country merged with basic instincts of survival, service and sacrifice. These untold stories of heroism carried out on the front lines of war need to be heard and preserved. Generations of wartime heroes gave life and limb to preserve peace and prosperity. They fought for the common good of humanity – freedom and liberty – by fighting against the common enemy of humanity -- tyranny and terrorism. I encourage volunteers across Iowa to consider participating in this opportunity. Scouting troops, veterans service organizations, civic clubs, professional associations, schools (students age 15 and older and educators), retirement communities, church groups, neighbors and family members are eligible to conduct interviews of veterans for this national effort.

Q: How can Iowans contribute to the Veterans History Project?

A: The Library of Congress Folklife Center provides a convenient, online field kit to get started at https://www.loc.gov/vets/pdf/fieldkit-2013.pdf. Printed versions are available by emailing vohp@loc.gov or calling (888)371-5848. Check my website for frequently asked questions and find more information at https://www.Grassley.Senate.gov/VeteransHistoryProject. Stories for the Veterans History Project may be told with an unedited audio or video recording of oral interviews with the veteran; collecting original war time correspondence and military documents, such as letters, postcards and personal diaries; as well as providing visual materials, including maps, photographs, drawings and scrapbooks. The collections provide a legacy of memories for family members and future generations and remind all Americans about the debt of gratitude we owe our heroes in uniform. Thanks to the patriotic service and immeasurable sacrifice of our nation’s wartime veterans, Americans will live in peace and prosperity for generations to come in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Q: Is your office conducting interviews for the Veterans History Project?

A: Yes. On Friday, Nov. 9, my staff will conduct up to 32 interviews of Iowa veterans at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston. Interested veterans may call my Des Moines office at (515) 288-1145 for more information and to schedule a 30-minute to an hour-long, in-person, recorded interview at the museum. Reservations will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. We are grateful to the Des Moines Area Community College and students in its journalism program for volunteering their time and audio-video equipment for this project. Without a doubt, it’s a meaningful way to observe Veterans Day and also brings younger generations in touch with veterans. Family and friends of veterans accompanying the scheduled interviews on Nov. 9 are welcome to enjoy the museum which will be open and free of admission. I encourage all Iowans to consider participating in the Veterans History Project to help make sure the invaluable stories of our hometown heroes are told and preserved for generations to come. We don’t have time to lose. The VA estimates 558,000 of the 16 million veterans who served during World War II are alive today. Of those, 7,568 live in Iowa.