October 24, 2003 Library of Congress Presents Veterans Day Special on Public Radio

Public Contact: Sally Aman (202) 544-7881
Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

In honor of Veterans Day, the American Folklife Center's Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress will present a one-hour special titled "Coming Home." The program, drawn from the oral histories gathered by the Veterans History Project, will be aired in early November on many Public Radio International (PRI) affiliate stations.

Featuring stories and voices from the Veterans History Project collection, "Coming Home," from the PRI series "Experiencing War," tells stories of sacrifice, triumph, great expectations and crushing disappointments. Some soldiers return home to ticker-tape parades and bonuses while others are told by their superiors not to wear their uniforms. In addition to their public reception, each soldier must face a personal, private return to his country, community and loved ones.

Veterans from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War and the civilians who supported them are coming forward to record their personal stories for a growing archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The goal of the Veterans History Project is to collect, preserve and share with future generations the stories of all America's war veterans and those who supported them.

Host Max Cleland is an American war hero, a former U.S. Senator, and a champion of the human spirit. He is a veteran who lost both legs and his right arm in a grenade blast in Vietnam. "It was a freak accident of war, but that's war," said Cleland. Because he understands firsthand the emotional wounds of war, he has become a powerful force in lobbying support for U.S. war veterans and their stories.

"I, for one, did not receive the information about losing my first wife" before returning home, wrote Corbin Willis Jr. Captured by the Germans in 1944 on his 22nd bombing mission, he survived two POW camps, cruel interrogation, scabies and crippling weight loss before he was finally liberated. Once on American shore, he immediately phoned his wife. "No such number," replied the operator.

"Veterans Day is a time to honor those who served. By participating in the Veterans History Project, veterans, civilians and partner organizations save stories of service for future generations," said Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, director of the Veterans History Project.

"Poignant is the word for these stories. 'Coming Home' offers PRI listeners treasures from the Veterans History Project's outstanding collection and surprises from each new interview we gather," said Lee Woodman, executive producer of the program.

Check your local listings for the date and time of the airing of "Coming Home." "Coming Home" is made possible through the support of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust. The Veterans History Project's Web site has digital interviews and wartime memorabilia and tells how others can get involved in the project. To learn more, go to www.loc.gov/folklife/vets/.

Congress created the project in legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Amo Houghton, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Max Cleland and Sen. Chuck Hagel. (Rep. Houghton and Senators Cleland and Hagel are featured on the Web site.) Stories are being recorded the way Congress envisioned: with grandchildren interviewing grandparents, veterans interviewing each other, and schools that conduct interviews as part of classroom assignments. The project is a national effort and relies on volunteers rather than professional historians to collect stories and documents.

More than 800 organizations around the country are participating in the project. AARP is the founding corporate sponsor.

Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to e-mail the office at vohp@loc.gov to request a project kit, or call toll-free (888) 371-5848. The kit is also available on the Veterans History Project Web site at www.loc.gov/vets/.

Background on the Voices in "Coming Home"
(their home states are noted in parenthesis)

Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, tells how these stories paint moving portraits of America's memory in times of war.

  • Historian Mike Perry discusses how the homecomings differ from World War I to Vietnam. (Pennsylvania)
  • Earl Ray Pointer, a World War II veteran, recounts a great reception home and return to civilian life. (Arkansas).
  • Trevor Sweet, a veteran of multiple wars, speaks about how one veteran got his memory back at a reunion. (Maryland)

The following veterans recall memories of the horrors of war:

  • Sen. Chuck Hagel served in Vietnam with his brother. He talks about the injuries he received from a 500-pound landmine. (Nebraska)
  • Andrew Kistler lost his legs during combat but tells of his admiration for the military's medical service, because he thought he wasn't going to survive. (Pennsylvania)
  • Jeanne and Brian Markle are a husband and wife team who served in Vietnam. Jeanne Markle, a nurse who cared for wounded soldiers, recounts memories of her flight home with wounded soldiers, pregnant with their first child. Brian Markle remained in Vietnam and had the job of informing families of the death of loved ones. (Indiana)

The following veterans survived war but then needed to find a way to fit in:

  • Frank Buckles, World War I veteran, went to business school when he returned home; he remembers everything being more expensive than when he left as a soldier. (West Virginia)
  • Walter Morris, one of the first African- American parachutists in World War II, became a union bricklayer and experienced tension on the job because of his status as a veteran. (Florida)
  • Warren Tsuneishi, a Japanese American and former chief of the Asian Division at the Library of Congress, was in a relocation camp and volunteered for military service in World War II. He recalls the racial prejudice in America at the time as well as the pride he felt in serving his country. (Maryland)

This veteran survived war and was left with its aftereffects:

  • Alvin Dickson had nightmares, was very restless and lost his job. He discusses the mental problems associated with memories of combat. (Ohio)

The following veterans describe how war affects families:

  • Tomika Dale, a Persian Gulf veteran, followed the progress of her six-month old son through letters. When she came home, it took him two weeks to get used to his mother again. (California)
  • Marion Gurfein described what it was like to be a "war wife." She recalls anxiously waiting for her husband Joe to come home and the joy when Joe returned and saw his daughter for the first time. Over the course of three years while he was overseas, she and her husband exchanged many letters. (Virginia)
  • Corbin Willis, POW in World War II, returned home to find that his wife had remarried. (Oregon)

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in the Library in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

Public Radio International is the Minneapolis-based public radio network and audio publisher that supports and distributes programs, many of which are created by leading national producers and are broadcast by its 744 public radio station affiliates. PRI programming also is available on locally branded public radio station Web sites, internationally through the World Radio Network and nationwide via Sirius Satellite Radio.


PR 03-185
ISSN 0731-3527