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By: Sheila Hoffmeyer, President
For: Red Rock News
Date: June 5, 2009

Veterans Tell Their Stories at Library

Tomorrow, Saturday June 6, is D-Day, a day that many Americans younger than 60 have only a limited connection to unless, perhaps, their grandfather happened to be in the armed services during that period.  Like Memorial Day, which we celebrated on May 25, D-Day is a day to thank and remember those who fought to preserve the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we in America enjoy today.  D-Day was the term used in planning the landing of the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, with 160,000 troops hitting the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.  Allied naval and merchant marine personnel in more than 5,000 ships were involved in this massive effort that became a turning point in World War II.
You may not be aware but for the past three years Sedona Public Library has been participating in the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. This project’s mission is to help collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

I recently asked Jolene Pierson, a member of the Veterans History Project committee at Sedona Public Library, if veterans she’s interviewed remember D-Day in the same way as many of us remember do 9-11 or the day JFK was assassinated.  “It depends,” she replied, “if they were in the actual invasion.  Remember, in 1944 communication was very different from today. Troops not directly involved often had no word of what was happening in another war theater for weeks or even months.”
James Billington, Librarian of Congress said, “We owe our wartime veterans a profound appreciation for their sacrifice and service to our nation and its future. We also owe all our citizens an opportunity to appreciate and honor those men and women who have protected our nation in the gravest of times. Together, with the help of all Americans, we can honor our war veterans and create a lasting body of documentary materials that will inform and educate our citizens in the decades ahead.”

Your Library is an official state partner in this vital preservation program.  Nearly every Wednesday morning a dedicated cadre of volunteers meet in the Quiet Study to interview veterans, videotape their stories and pass the information on to the Library of Congress.  The veteran receives a copy of the interview on DVD and a copy is sent to the American Folklife Center for archiving.  The Project collects first-hand accounts of U.S. Veterans from the following wars:

  • World War I (1914-1920)
  • World War II (1939-1946)
  • Korean War (1950-1955)
  • Vietnam War (1961-1975)
  • Persian Gulf War (1990-1995)
  • Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present)

In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are invited to share their valuable stories.

To date, the Sedona Library volunteer teams ha gathered more than 100 interviews and they are currently scheduling interviews for July and August.  If you are a veteran, or know a veteran, or an individual who meets the criteria above, encourage them to tell their personal story by contacting Jolene Pierson, or 282-7999.  The team is particularly appealing to veterans and those civilians who worked in defense industries during wartime to come forward to be interviewed.
“It is so wonderful to have a visual record of the interview, the story in the veterans' own words and the picture capturing their body language and emotion, “said Jolene.  “Every interview I’ve done has been a privilege.  I’ve learned so much and met terrific people who are modest about their service to our country.”  Jolene’s step father served in the Army Air Corps as a test pilot and she became a volunteer after reading a Library Column published in 2006 about the project.

“We want veterans to know this is their interview. We talk about what they want to discuss.  If we ask a question that a veteran doesn’t want to answer, they just say so and we move on,” said Jolene “No one is made to feel uncomfortable.  It is their story.  I remember one interview with a Marine Corpsman who served in Vietnam and he recounted all the jokes the guys played on each other.  He brought his collection of mementos from his years in service and shared them with us.”

We also need the help of people who would like to join the team doing the actual interviews, running the video and audio equipment and filling out the necessary forms and other tasks.  We have training guidelines for those who want to learn how to conduct an interview.  The time commitment is adjustable based on your schedule and ranges from a few hours a week to whatever you care to give. 

If you are interested in getting involved in this national archiving project, contact Jolene to sign up.  You would find it a very satisfying experience. The Veterans History Project team is also willing to speak to any civic group about the local Veterans History Project.

You can find out more about the Veterans History Project, search the veterans’ collection and view featured interviews by visiting the web site at

Sheila Hoffmeyer
Sheila Hoffmeyer, author of this week's article,
is President of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.