War vets share stories for Veterans History Project

Sacrifice and service, victory and loss, wartime and battle – still so vividly alive in their minds even decades after those memories were born – six U.S. military war veterans retold their stories last weekend.

World War II veteran Walter Grotz of Delano shared his war stories for the Veterans History Project. The veteran brought along icons, memorabilia and fragments of his wartime experience as flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator bomber. After his bomber was shot down in an engagement with German FW 190 fighters, Grotz survived a Nazi prison camp and a 520-mile death march during which 3,000 Americans perished. Photo by Sue Austreng

World War II veteran Walter Grotz of Delano shared his war stories for the Veterans History Project. The veteran brought along icons, memorabilia and fragments of his wartime experience as flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator bomber. After his bomber was shot down in an engagement with German FW 190 fighters, Grotz survived a Nazi prison camp and a 520-mile death march during which 3,000 Americans perished. Photo by Sue Austreng

The uniformed veterans sat down and shared their wartime tales with students studying court reporting at Anoka Technical College. The Nov. 10 event marked the sixth annual Veterans History Project staged at Anoka Tech.

The national Veterans History Project (organized by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress) collects, records, preserves and shares the personal accounts of American war veterans from all over the country.

“Veterans are invited to share their stories in order to inspire and invoke future generations to be aware of the sacrifice and history that is embedded deep within our great nation,” said Deb Longley, judicial reporting faculty member at Anoka Tech.

“Their stories are so valuable, so powerful. And we need to hear those stories. We need to record those stories and share those stories so we never forget what it took to have our freedom,” said Crystal Ziebarth, a member of Anoka Tech’s court reporting program.

Stories are collected so that future generations may hear them directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. But those hearing the stories aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Veterans History Project.

“I’m just amazed at the bond these vets have,” said Longley.

“Even if they didn’t serve side by side, they know exactly what each other went through. They speak the same language, they know the pain, the fear, the courage… They lived it together.”

It’s almost like a support group for them, because only those who lived these stories know what it’s like, according to Jennifer Sati, a colleague of Longley.

And so the afternoon was spent with court reporter students conducting and recording one-on-one interviews with the veterans. Those interviews were then transcribed and formatted to be sent off to the Library of Congress.

First-hand accounts of U.S. veterans from world wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are collected and compiled for the Veterans Service Project.

To learn more about the project and to view veterans collections, visit www.loc.gov/vets.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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