Veterans Day videos allow students and the public to connect with veterans |

Veterans Day videos allow students and the public to connect with veterans

Videos to be shown in classrooms and on local television due to the pandemic

For the past 22 years, veterans from the local VFW Post 10721 have been going to over 20 schools to share their stories on Veterans Day. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, those in-person gatherings didn’t seem feasible this November.

Debbie Robbins, who has been organizing the veteran assemblies since the first one happened in 1998 at Avon Elementary School, was trying to come up with a solution. She reached out to Hannah Shapiro, the media, journalism and English teacher at Eagle Valley High School.

Shapiro was already familiar with some of the local veterans because of the work she and her students had done on the Veterans History Project during her first year on the job six years ago. Her class had worked with veteran Pete Thompson and had interviewed several veterans before the summer school break. Unfortunately, the school district wiped the computers clean over the summer, deleting the interviews that she and her students had conducted.

“When I read the email from Debbie asking about video suggestions and support for Veterans Day, it hit me. We could do that, but we could also revive the Veterans History Project,” Shapiro said.

Living history

The United States Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 as part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. These video recordings of veterans from all over the nation create a permanent record to contribute to an understanding of the past.

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“Wednesday is the asynchronous day for students while teachers have meetings and I asked our Assistant Principal Abby Wiens if we could make a schedule for veterans to come in one at a time to minimize germ exposure and have the students come in and interview them on those Wednesdays, and she was all about it,” Shapiro said.

Since Shapiro was in meetings on Wednesdays, she asked two of her experienced EVTV reporters if they’d be willing to take the lead. Sam Elliott and Langston James, both juniors at Eagle Valley High School, accepted this additional responsibly.

With Elliott and James wrangling the students to help and Robbins getting the word out to area veterans, the local Veterans Awareness Week was still made possible this year in Eagle County.

The students conducted a half-hour video interview with each veteran and sent the raw footage to the Library of Congress. Then, each interview was edited down to a 3-5 minute profile of the veteran to be shown in classrooms and to the public on High Five Access Media (channel 5) and Eagle County Television (channel 18) throughout Veterans Day. The videos will also be available on EVTV’s website.

‘A wonderful alternative’

“The response from the vets has been great. They are thrilled to be able to do this. They all miss going into the schools but this is a wonderful alternative,” said Eagle County Veterans Service Officer Pat Hammon. “So many more of our veteran’s stories can be shared via video in the schools and on television and social media.”

The students are benefitting, too. Not only are they gaining responsibility by conducting the various steps to collected and edit the information, but they are also hearing history unfold from those who lived it.

“It is important to have veterans tell their story because they went through
something more than the average person does. They all played a role no matter what branch or whether they were in a war or not, in keeping us safe and giving us the privileges we have today,” said Zofia Skiba, a junior at Eagle Valley High School.

“I feel that this project is extremely cool in the fact that it will act as a time capsule and really preserve the things these men and women have to say for many years to come,” added Jordan Neifert, a junior at Eagle Valley High School. “These interviews could be the first time they are openly sharing their stories or showing off their service memorabilia. It is exciting to get to be a part of that.”

The students involved in this project got to hear firsthand how these veterans’ lives were changed and shaped by their experiences in the military.

“I was operating the camera during Pat Hammon’s interview and during it, she said that she was against the Vietnam war, but she still went because she wanted to help the people that were going, and that just really stands out to me. Sometimes you’ve just got to look at the bigger picture and see what you can do to help. After listening to the interviews, I found that I took way more of an interest in past and present service than I did before, and many of the stories really swung my view,” said Langston James, a junior at Eagle Valley High school.

The project also helped these young students think about their own future.

“Listening to the veterans has given me a greater appreciation for past historical events in history. A lot of the veterans have inspired me to be more creative with the lifestyle I choose to have,” said Sam Elliott, a junior at Eagle Valley High School. “Not just in choosing a military path, but just to take advantage of different opportunities that I am presented with in life.”

“One main idea I got from the interviews was that joining the military is a commitment to a team. You are united with the people that you serve with and that unity is what is most important during hard times,” Elliott said.

These videos will be shown in classrooms on Veterans Day and will air on High Five Access Media (channel 5) and Eagle County Television (channel 18) throughout Wednesday or view the videos here.

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