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‘Voices’ helps keep history alive

Staff Reports

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are only a small handful of World War I Veterans alive today.Soon they will be gone.And then World War II veterans will be scarce. Korean veterans will be rare after that. And I wonder when they’re gone, who will tell their stories?Much as I love history, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be rather dry, but not when the recollections are as vivid as they are in “Voices of War” by The Library of Congress Veterans History Project (c.2004, National Geographic). Taken from diaries, journals, letters, and taped interviews with veterans of the last five conflicts, these are stories of war before, during, and after from the people who were there.”Voices of War” tells what it was like when patriotic fervor swept across America during the days just after Pearl Harbor was bombed and young men enlisted because they felt it was the right thing to do. Many of them tell of the brutal but necessary way that boot camp tore them down to build them up. A not-so-surprising number of young women enlisted, too, including a young black woman who trained in a segregated barracks in Iowa.In the beginning of World War I, many of the new enlistees were teenagers. You’ll read the story of one young boy who joined the Armed Forces at age fifteen and fought alongside men twice his age. Today’s soldiers might find it funny how leaders were chosen back then; one soldier says that he was given orders to show up at 6 a.m. Upon arrival, he was then put in charge of a group of men. He organized them into ranks and marched them to the station to board the train.Perhaps the most heartbreaking parts of this book are the chapters devoted to coming home or being home. Nurses recall soldiers they’ll never forget. Women who supported the efforts on the Home Front during World War II tell about the harassment they got from people who thought they shouldn’t be doing a man’s job. While there were many soldiers with happy returns, some veterans remember the way people reacted when they returned from unpopular wars.With a forward by Ron Kind, writer of the Veterans History Project Act, this book is powerful and filled with pride for those who have served. Also included is information on the Veterans History Project which gathers interviews and writings for the Library of Congress, so that, decades from now, children can learn first-hand what it meant to fight on the beaches of Normandy, the trenches of Germany, the hills of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, or the sands of the Gulf.”Voices of War” is highly recommended for anyone who believes that these stories need to be recorded and wants to learn how to do it. It’s also a book that will prove that there is more than just one Greatest Generation. VT– Terri Schlichenmeyer


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