As part of the Veterans History Project (VHP) of Sacramento, local veterans have the chance to record their wartime stories of service and make them a part of a growing national collection.
The History Project is volunteer-run and operated by the Sacramento Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a part of the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance. The Project seeks out veterans and civilians involved in American wars from World War I through the most recent conflicts in Iraq – and mobilizes volunteer interviewers age 55+ to record their stories on video. Those recordings and any wartime memorabilia are then sent to Washington DC to become part of the Library of Congress' veteran archives. Since RSVP adopted the program, more than 500 interviews from Sacramento-area residents have been collected.
“We have talked to veterans of all ages,” said Program Director Mary Parker. “We connect with veterans at health fairs, and senior centers. Interested parties call us and we get the ball rolling.” Many children of veterans refer their parents and after being interviewed, some veterans feel comfortable discussing their experiences with their families for the first time.
To be interviewed, veterans complete and submit a questionnaire, and they are matched with an interviewer. Interviews are conducted either at a Sacramento County office or at the veteran's home, depending on preference. Interviews last around an hour, and thanks to generous donations, video recording equipment, lighting and American flag backdrop are provided. The veteran and their family also receive a DVD copy.
The interview experience is also a memorable one for volunteer interviewers. Asking questions and guiding a conversation to shed light on military life, struggles and successes gives the interviewer a hand in making history.
While all wartime veterans are welcome to participate, stories from younger veterans – even those who may have recently returned from the front lines of Afghanistan or Iraq are sought. Volunteers are needed from all areas of Sacramento, and there is a special need for interviewers who live in, or are willing to travel to South Sacramento, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Folsom.
“It's something different from many other volunteer opportunities,” said Janine Brown, Senior Volunteer Services Program Manager. “We get to connect people with volunteer opportunities where they live. In the process, veterans have the chance to record their life experiences for themselves and for their families.”
For more information about VHP, call 916-875-4460, or visit www.saccounty.net and search “Veterans History Project.”