Library partners with Veterans History Project

Memorial Day may have been a week ago, but that does not mean their sacrifices should no longer be remembered, and the Elizabethton/Carter County Library has been hard at work, trying to preserve the experiences and lessons local veterans have to offer their communities.

Adult Services Director Maryann Owen said she has partnered with the Veterans History Project, a program trying to record and preserve the stories of veterans across the country into the Library of Congress.

“We have reached out to the Elizabethton Senior Center and nursing homes,” Owen said.

There, she said she has gone with Wounded Warrior Fellow Terry Harris, who works with Congressman Phil Roe, to interview local veterans and capture their stories and experiences.

She said the idea to partner with the project came from a phone call she had with a patron a few months ago.

“A lady called the library, and she was a widow of a WWII veteran,” she said. “She told me the story of how he got involved in the war and what society was like.”

Owen said she was on the phone with her for roughly 20 minutes, and at the end, she said she was not sure how to share the lady’s story, but her response defined the result.

“I am not going to forget you,” Owen told her.

Months later, she got in contact with Harris.

“When I met with Harris, I was nervous,” she said. “I did not realize what I was getting into.”

The interviews are 30-minute long video interviews with the veteran in question. The duo is constantly working to arrange interviews with people they find all over the region, including nursing homes.

She said she originally thought she was merely going to assist him in his interviews, but he instead wanted her to ask some questions of her own.

Every interview is quite different,” she said.

She said the past few interviews have been surprising at just how easily the interviewees were able to remember details of their time in the military decades ago and what the culture was like.

“It was exciting,” Owen said. “The stories just unfolded in front of us.”

She said cataloging and recording these interviews is paramount to preserving a history that is threatening to fade away.

“Other people do not know the history, and a few want to erase the history,” Owen said. “These men and women have sacrificed their lives through decisions that cannot be undone. […] It is the least we can do to preserve their history.”

The project is ongoing and ever-growing, so Owen said those with stories of their own or family members who have them are more than welcome to contact the library to reach out to her at 423-547-6360 or by contacting Harris at 423-254-1400.

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