By Sedona City Councilor John Martinez
(March 31, 2013)
An American Hero
This article highlights the Veterans History Project – the national project to document the wartime contributions of civilian volunteers, support staff, and war industry workers, as well as the experiences of military personnel from all ranks and branches of service: Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, US Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines.
Nineteen million war veterans currently live in the United States, and every day we lose approximately 1,600 of them. Motivated by the urgent need to collect the stories and experiences of those veterans while they are still among us, the United States Congress created the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. The Sedona Public Library is the only official partner of this great project north of Prescott in AZ. This is an on-going project, not a one-time task, and it is estimated that there are 29,000 veterans living in the Verde Valley who are qualified to contribute. As of this writing 192 have volunteered to tell their story, and we look forward to the contributions of many more.
Do you know of anyone who contributed to the war effort in World War II or the Korean Conflict? At this time, the greatest need is for interviews revolving around those who participated or contributed in those wars. Personally, I am in awe of them and would love to hear their stories.
On December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked, it became irrefutable that America was not a fortress – not isolated from what was happening in the rest of the world. That day changed the lives of all who heard the radio broadcast – the news that electrified the nation and called this generation to train for War. These men and women came of age during the Great Depression, when economic despair hovered over the land like a plague. Now the nation turned to those same young people to carry the heaviest war burden, to fight in enemy territory, and keep the home front secure and productive. And they valiantly answered the call to help save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled.
Tom Brokaw stated in his bestselling book The Greatest Generation that “they faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. The U.S. government asked of them extraordinary service, sacrifice and heroics. At a time when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love and lessons of the workaday world they were fighting, often hand to hand in the most primitive conditions.” New branches of the service were formed to get women into uniform, working at tasks that would free men for combat. Other women went to work in the laboratories and in the factories, and besides building ships, planes, and tanks, they raised their families. It was a critical time in the shaping of this nation, and I am honored to say that my uncles Louie and Frank, and my dad John Sr. (USS Hector) fought in WWII. My mother-in-law Ruth also contributed by becoming a “Rosie-the-Riveter” at the Lockheed Aircraft Plant in Burbank, California, building the B-17 bomber. Other uncles Marcello and Frank, as well as my childhood next-door neighbor, fought in the Korean Conflict.
When the war ended, more than twelve million men and women put their uniforms aside and returned to civilian life. Their service was not widely recognized outside of their immediate families or communities, but they were proud of what they had accomplished. They rarely discussed their experiences, even with each other, but their legacy remains. That is why the Veterans History Project was created – to help us all remember.
The Veteran’s History Project, sponsored by The Sedona Public Library is also interested in documenting veterans that participated in the Vietnam, Grenada, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The interviews cover five areas: Biographical details of the Veteran, Early days of Service, Wartime Service, Life Following Separation from Service, and Reflections by the Veteran on Service. It is the goal of the Sedona Public Library “that every veteran not to be forgotten,” and no preconceived judgments or expectations will be made during the interview. After the completion of the interview, the veteran will receive a DVD in a format that can be played on DVD player or computer. A second copy of the DVD is sent to the Library of Congress for preservation as part of our nation’s history. To learn more, and to see and hear some of the thousands of interviews that have been collected nationwide, log on to www.loc.gov/vets. If you are interested in an interview for yourself or to refer a local veteran, please contact: Jolene Pierson, Sedona Veterans History Project Chairperson: by phone at (928) 282-7999, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knowing that this and future generations of Americans (just ask Emma Keider, SRRHS) have much to learn from those who have served, the United States Library of Congress and the Sedona Public Library have embraced this project. The Sedona Rotary Club currently funds this project and tax-deductible donations to support the Veterans History Project can be made to the Sedona Public Library.
The Veterans History Project will be hosting the first of a series of Coffee with a Vet events, which started on Monday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Si Birch Community Room at the Sedona Public Library. Everyone is invited to come in for free coffee and to meet and chat with local veterans. The second event will be at the same time and place on Friday, April 12. Volunteer members of the Veterans History Project will be available both days to answer questions about the project and to schedule interviews of interested veterans.
The views that I have expressed are my personal opinions and not necessarily the opinions or positions of the city of Sedona or the City Council.