March 09, 2020

Weekly Column: Veterans History Workshop In Idaho

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Recording the life stories of Idaho veterans helps ensure their service is honored in a way that enables us to learn from their examples.  Over the years, I have participated in interviewing Idaho veterans to preserve their stories for the Veterans History Project (VHP).  I am proud to be a part of bringing representatives of the Library of Congress, which administers the Veterans History Project, and others to Jerome, Idaho, Saturday, March 14, 2020, to host a veterans oral history workshop.  The workshop will be held at 12:00 PM at the Summit Elementary School (200 10th Ave W., Jerome).  This is a great opportunity to honor the service of more Idaho veterans by expanding Idahoans’ contributions to the collection. 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary Post 3001 spearheaded the March 14 workshop, which is intended to broaden understanding of how to interview and record veterans’ stories to be included in the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.  Congress established the Veterans History Project in 2000.  Since, the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center has been working with the public to collect veterans’ oral histories to preserve and make them available to the public “so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”  In 2016, Congress expanded the Veterans History Project to include stories given by immediate family of Armed Forces members lost through wartime service.

Idaho veterans and their families have provided 1,498 collections for the VHP so far.  The personal service accounts of Idaho veterans and veterans nationwide can be viewed on the Veterans History Project website, at www.loc.gov/vets/.  The VHP can be searched for the accounts of veterans of certain wars and from specific states, including those from Idaho veterans.  In addition to archiving this important part of our nation’s history for all Americans, the collections have been used for museum exhibits, academic papers, news articles and more.  The Veterans History Project website contains guidelines for conducting interviews and submitting stories to the project.  Veterans’ unedited audio or video-recorded interviews, photographs, letters, diaries, journals, military documents, two-dimensional artwork, maps and unpublished memoirs that pertain to the service of U.S. military veterans are among the materials accepted to the VHP. 

I have written previously about the insights Idahoan William Russell Woodfin Sr. shared during a 2001 interview with a longtime member of my staff, the late-Linda Norris.  He said, “I always say this to high school or elementary schools when I talk to them that I hope no one thinks I’m brave.  I did so little compared to many who lived, but particularly those who died . . . Bravery to me is being scared to death, but some way, with the help of your God, overcoming the fear.  You don’t overcome it, but you’re able to go on, bear up, and do what you have to do.  And that’s an hourly, daily thing . . . I’ll tell you as nearly as I can so that I hope you understand it.”  His humility and thoughts about overcoming fear are deeply powerful and reflective of the purpose of this enormously enriching project.  Thank you to all those who take the time to ensure Idaho voices are part of this national treasure.

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