Soldiers wrote letters to mom and dad from the frontline. Newspapers reported on decisive victories and battles that lasted for weeks. Strangers from across the U.S. became closer than brothers and sisters.
Edinboro University’s Veterans Success Center will host a training session for sociable individuals who are interested in collecting these stories from U.S. Army veterans. On June 20-21 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., members of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) Veterans Ambassador Program, out of Carlisle, Pa., will train volunteers in Edinboro University’s Frank G. Pogue Student Center to collect personal stories to include in the Army’s historical archives.
The Veterans Ambassador Program targets all U.S. Army veterans, regardless of era, conflict or combat. Ambassadors distribute questionnaires to veterans and conduct oral history interviews of their military experience. Andrew Matt, coordinator of the Veterans Success Center at Edinboro, said that these histories are vital with the aging population of veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.
“Each of these veterans has a unique set of experiences that goes beyond the broad strategic stories that are available in books,” said Matt, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a U.S. Army Reserve Officer. “Collecting the personal stories of veterans not only provides information on the lives of these individuals during wartime, but also provides greater insights into these conflicts themselves.
For veterans of modern wars – such as the Global War on Terror – the Army is collecting oral histories of veterans due to the lack of primary documents. During World War II, Korea and Vietnam, written letters and journals were the primary means to communicate with family and to chronicle the lives of military personnel, Matt explained.
“With digital records being so fleeting in many cases, they are even easier to lose and destroy than the paper documents of the past,” he said. “Thus, the ability to gain oral histories from veterans of our current conflicts is of the utmost importance for preserving information about the last seventeen years of conflict.”
The mission of the Veterans Ambassador Program is to coordinate strategic engagement to secure stories from U.S. military veterans about their service, to collect historically significant artifacts and information and to educate the public and private organizations about the USAHEC program.
In order to become a USAHEC Veteran Ambassador, individuals must be outgoing and capable or speaking easily to crowds and individual veterans. Volunteers must be able to dedicate significant time and effort to the collection of stories and must be enthusiastic about preserving and protecting the rich history of the U.S. Army.
“We always need hard-working volunteers willing to learn and stay flexible to help us collect the Army's story,” said Karl K. Warner III, program and education coordinator at the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center, the Army’s premier museum, archive and research facility. “Every Army veteran's story is important, and there is no requirement to have military background or formal history education to be an Ambassador.”
In addition to collecting oral histories from soldiers, Ambassadors may also be called upon to represent the USAHEC across the U.S. and assist with donations of historical materials from veterans – including photos, journals, letters and other related articles.
The USAHEC is an institution of the U.S. Army War College located at the Carlisle Barracks. The official Army historical archives for soldier history, the USAHEC boasts millions of manuscripts, oral histories, artifacts and more.
To learn more about the 2-day training workshop at Edinboro University, contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 732-1568. For more information about the program and to register for the program, contact Warner at email@example.com or (717) 245-4491.