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Volunteer Spotlight - Matthew Peterman (July 2004)

Volunteer of the Month - Matthew PetermanView additional Volunteer Spotlights
Last spring, Melody Peterman of Marengo, Illinois, read an article in the Chicago Tribune that featured a national effort spearheaded by the Library of Congress to collect the memories of wartime veterans. Sharing the article with her 17 year-old son, Matthew, Mrs. Peterman said, “This project would be just right for you.” [Matthew is pictured on the right, shaking hands with Beverly Lindsey, Director for the Veterans History Project.]

With hopes of some day teaching history and joining the U.S. Army, Matthew agreed that participating in the Veterans History Project (VHP) would help him work toward his goals. Over the course of the next several months, the entire Peterman family and their community – through the leadership of Matthew – participated in the Veterans History Project.

Early in the process, Matthew received approval from the Boy Scouts of America to coordinate this effort to collect stories from local veterans for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.

The first step was to gather information on the project through the Web site, www.loc.gov/vets, and next Matthew contacted a VHP Program Officer, Tim Schurtter. Quickly, the Petermans discovered that this would be an “effort in coordinating time, resources and people.”

Image: see caption below
Matthew Peterman (left) at his Eagle
Scout Court of Honor. April 4, 2004.

Matthew contacted Grace Moline at the McHenry County Historical Society. Ms. Moline gave Matthew a list of veterans he could contact by letter about the project. Matthew coordinated with his church, Zion Lutheran, to use its space to conduct the interviews. One church member, who was a Vietnam veteran, owned a video service and offered to be the videographer. Matthew enlisted several other students to help with the interviews. Other friends gave assistance and advice, and his parents were supportive players throughout.

After identifying a date, location, interviewers and cameraman, Matthew sent letters to the veterans. The letter invited veterans to an Open House to record their wartime stories for the Veterans History Project.

Finally, leaving nothing to chance, Matthew contacted the local newspaper to publish the invitation with interview dates and location. A number of veterans called to say they could not make it but wanted to know if the interviews could be conducted at their homes. Matthew obliged.

These efforts culminated in two important events: the first being the delivery of the 13 interviews to Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and the second being the Eagle Court of Honor.

Over a course of only a couple of months, Matthew coordinated the completions of 13 interviews from veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Through the support of his family, his church and entire community, Matthew Peterman was able to complete his Eagle Scout Project and rise to the highest rank in scouting at the Eagle Court of Honor ceremony held at Zion Lutheran Church on April 4, 2004.

Matthew Peterman of Marengo, Illinois is an Eagle Scout. To date, he has coordinated 13 interviews of veterans for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. To learn how you can participate in the Veterans History Project, please visit www.loc.gov/vets.

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  August 10, 2010
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