- Associated Press - Sunday, November 26, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - When U.S. Army Spec. 5 Steven Richcreek was stationed in Vietnam for 19 months in the late 1960s, he wrote endless letters home to his family, in Swayzee at the time. His mother, Phyllis, saved about 40 of those letters, Richcreek said.

They told a tale of a young man navigating his way through war in a country over 8,000 miles away from home.

“Things around here are kind of quiet right now. We are long over due for a monster attack, so we are kind of on our toes,” he wrote in one of them dated March 13, 1967. “I’m fine but tired as all get out.”

And while all of those letters have remained in the Richcreek family for over 40 years, some of them are now headed to Washington D.C. thanks to the Veterans History Project and the help of Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and his staff.

The VHP was created in 2000 by the U.S. Congress as part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The project’s mission statement is clear: It’s to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

Through personal sit-down interviews that last at least 30 minutes, stories and memories are collected and preserved from veterans who fought in wars ranging from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interviewers ask the veterans a series of questions about their military experiences, such as where they were stationed, their memories of war and what it was like coming home.

Those interviews then go into a giant database on the Library of Congress’ website, which can be accessed by anyone for free. Photographs, maps, letters and other artifacts often accompany the interviews as well.

Donnelly has been personally involved with the VHP for about 10 years, staff member Madeline Carlos said. She also said that Donnelly’s office has hosted a number of VHP events throughout the state, conducting over 250 veterans’ interviews since he became a senator in 2013.

One of those VHP events took place earlier this month at Miller’s Merry Manor, and it brought out several local veterans, like Richcreek, who just wanted their stories to be heard.

So for two hours that afternoon, that’s exactly what happened. Several members of Donnelly’s staff sat down with the veterans inside the manor’s cafeteria and simply listened, pausing only to ask the occasional question or to give the veterans a moment of quiet reflection.

Miller’s Merry Manor resident Olin Cody, 86, spent 22 years as a member of the U.S. Air Force, serving during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was also interviewed during the VHP event, and he said it helped him remember stories and details of his military service that he thought were long forgotten.

“This brought some of my memories back,” he said. “I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough to tell them about, but I got to talking, and it brought back a lot of memories. I was able to put down more stuff than I thought I ever would.”

Tina Lipply is the activities director at Miller’s Merry Manor, and she said 17 veterans currently reside at the facility. So when Donnelly’s staff called about a month ago about the possibility of holding a VHP event there, Lipply said she jumped at the opportunity. After she did her own research on the project, she said she knew the interviews would be beneficial.

“For them to be able to tell their stories is very important,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t even know it (the project) exists. So it’s about getting it out in the community for people to know that this information is there and is going to be there for a long time.”

Lipply said she’s been telling the veterans who reside at Miller’s Merry Manor about the event ever since she found out about the project, and five of the facility’s residents ended up participating.


Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune


Information from: Pharos-Tribune, http://www.pharostribune.com

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