Students Transcribe Vets Memories

November 11, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Marking a day to thank and remember those who fought for this country, today’s observance of Veteran’s Day will have a special significance to some Calvin College students.

The students of English 101 classes at Calvin, taught by professors Jennifer Holberg and Chip Pollard, have been conducting interviews with World War II veterans and videotaping them for permanent archiving at the Library of Congress.

The Calvin students interview the veterans several times and videotape each encounter. They are also assigned to write papers based on the interviews. Both the papers and the videos will be on file and available to others at the Library of Congress.

Holberg hatched the idea this summer after reading about the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, an attempt to get oral histories from veterans.

World War II veterans often have been hesitant to talk about what they did or experienced during their service, but as they age their thoughts return and more and more to their experiences as soldiers, sailors or marines.

Now, Pollard and Holberg are giving those veterans a chance to talk and tell their stories.

Students have found the experience adds excitement to what could otherwise be a pretty standard into English class. They have interviewed soldiers who were on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, blew up bridges over the River Kwai and had their ships sunk by Japanese pilots.

Students also like the idea that their work will be available to others. The class is planning a December luncheon on campus at which they will present a copy of their written histories to the veterans.

For more information contact Jennifer Holberg at 957-6598 or Chip Pollard at 957-6466.

The Michigan Military Air, Land and Sea Museum (MMALS) is conducting a similar project entitled “Military Honor Roll,” a program designed to keep veterans’ memories alive for the next generation. MMALS has teamed up with Gordon Olson, former Grand Rapids City Historian, the Grand Rapids Public Library and the Community Media Center to collect and properly document the stories.

“It is imperative that we gather a variety of stories from across the state to preserve history for generations to come. We want them to understand the dedication and sacrifices their forefathers gave to this nation,” said Olson.

“While a textbook can give a great two to three-page summary, a true account — one’s personal testament — will place you right there.”

The museum will be accepting stories on a continuous basis and stories may be mailed to MMALS at P.O. Box 888212, Grand Rapids, MI 49588-8212. For additional information contact Bill Harrison at 974-1955.

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