Q: Can you tell us about the Veterans History Project?
A: The Veterans History Project is a collection of oral histories curated and archived at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The collection makes accessible to the public the personal accounts of American war veterans to memorialize their stories for generations to come. Iowa has a rich history of military service, sending more soldiers per capita to serve in the Union army in the Civil War than any other state. The Veterans History Project brings to life the war stories of American heroes serving since World War I through present day. When the law was enacted on Oct. 27, 2000, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported nearly 19 million living war veterans. At that time, approximately 3,400 living veterans served in World War I and around six million from World War II. As a student of history and proud American, I applaud the Veterans History Project for helping pay our war heroes a debt of gratitude. It also provides a platform for these brave men and women to give voice to the harsh realities of war and articulate the noble calling for which they served. As one of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, I wanted to help ensure the voices of Iowa veterans were preserved in the collection. So, I began inviting Iowans in 2018 to tell the story of their military service so that future generations will appreciate their legacy of patriotism and sacrifice. These service members share stories of bravery, courage, loneliness, suffering and more, as they deployed to the battlefield, leaving behind loved ones, homes, and livelihoods to defend our freedoms and way of life. I am honored to facilitate this opportunity for Iowa veterans these last five years. We’ve interviewed more than 60 Iowa veterans and are grateful for the community support across Iowa, including the Iowa Gold Star Museum in Johnston, the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, the Veterans Post in Waverly, the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, and this year at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo.
Q: Can you tell us about the Iowa veterans who participated this year?
A: As in previous years, the veterans provide firsthand narratives, recorded for posterity in a 30- to 60-minute recorded interview. The day runs smoothly thanks in large measure to support provided by local colleges and students who volunteer their time and technological expertise to help ensure recordings are top-notch as possible for the veterans who are sharing personal oral histories. These interviews bear powerful testimony and memorialize how our veterans have impacted American history. By sharing their stories, veterans enable their fellow citizens to learn from their sacrifice, celebrate their service and share in their sorrows, especially for loss of fellow service members who didn’t return home from the battlefield. The Iowans who participated this year at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum include: Thomas Johnson, Vietnam; Rita Potratz, peacetime/Desert Storm; Chiquita Loveless, Desert Storm/Shield; Mike Butler, Vietnam; Larry Walters, Vietnam; Dale Busler, Vietnam; Maurice (Moe) McWhorter, Desert Storm/Operation Northern Watch/Operation Enduring Freedom; Richard Pint, Vietnam; Jim Ites, peacetime/1957 Taiwan; Heidi Warrington, Desert Storm/Kosovo/Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/War on Terror; Arnold Boge, Vietnam. To learn about other Iowa veterans who have participated in this project through my office, visit my website,https://www.grassley.
On this Veterans Day, let us call to mind the sacrifice of the men and women in uniform who were called to serve for love of country and put their lives on the line for our freedoms. The federal holiday got its origins from Armistice Day, the “11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month” to mark the end of World War I. Since then, generations of Americans have honored hometown veterans with parades, ceremonies and other tributes on Nov. 11. On Veterans Day and every day, I encourage Iowans to help veterans acclimate to civilian life through employment opportunities and other community services, such as homeless shelters, career mentoring and suicide prevention. America owes our veterans a debt of gratitude.