HN: In addition to preserving and presenting veterans’ stories in several ways, including podcasts of interviews and online postings of personal memories of veterans and their families, you also publish American Valor Quarterly, which contains first-hand accounts from World War II to the present. Why is AVC so heavily involved in preserving these memories?
TH: You know, the timing is so important right now. This would be a massively important program regardless, but the World War II veterans, the World War II generation, is rapidly disappearing. Its not a program you can wait 10 years to finish up or get back to. The same is true for veterans of the Korean War and even the Vietnam War. It is important to give a voice to their stories. What we record is out there for people to access so the stories will live on even after the veterans are gone.
HN: Since we’re talking about memories, what are a couple of memories of the AVC’s activities that really stand out for you?TH: That’s a tough question. A lot really stand out. One thing we’re obviously proud of is bringing back the parade. The 2004 parade began at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, and it was raining that day. There were probably more people in the parade than watching it. Then, to turn that around so that in five years we have hundreds of thousands of people attending, thousands participating; to have the parade carried on television via The Military Channel and to have participants like the actors Gary Sinise, Joe Mantegna, and World War II veterans Mickey Rooney and Ernest Borgnine is phenomenal.
For me personally, the best memories have to be meeting some of the great veterans of previous years. Being able to call members of the Doolittle Raiders friends. We interviewed Frank Buckle, the last surviving World War I vet. The young veterans from Iraq & Afghanistan, who are really outstanding, the best we have to offer—getting to know people like these are my greatest memories.
HN: Thanks for talking with HistoryNet. Is there anything you’d like to add?
TH: I think we pretty well covered it. The American Veterans Center really is all about preserving the stories, the memories “From the Greatest Generation to the Latest Generation,” as we like to say. I think it’s really important to do that now. With World War II, Korea, and Vietnam vets, plus what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is a really important time to be doing this. The Library of Congress has been able to record a lot of these stories with its Veterans Project, too.
We’ve been able to record memories of “everyday vets,” not just the famous ones. In October, we’ll be coming out with a book of these stories called Home of the Brave, which we’re producing in partnership with Harris Connect. We’ll also have an online version for forums where vets or their family members will be able to submit their photos, bios and stories.
To learn more and to read, hear and view some of the veterans’ stories that have preserved, visit the American Veterans Center Website.
Gerald D. Swick is senior Web editor for the World History Group.