Veterans History Project

By Bob Aronson, Red Cross Volunteer

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The Veterans History Project was created by Congress in 2000 and established in the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.  The mission is to collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war vets, enabling future generations to better understand the realities of war.

Eligibility for military vets (those who served in war and/or peace times), also includes U. S. civilians actively involved in supporting war efforts such as the war industry, USO representatives, flight instructors, medical volunteers and others invited to participate. Each personal account is vital to American History, important to families and future generations, and a recognition of individual sacrifices made.

The Red Cross Los Angeles Region’s Greater Long Beach, Rio Hondo and South Bay Chapter started its affiliation with the VHP program almost eight years ago. Mike Farrar, a Red Cross volunteer, developed, recruited and trained other volunteers to implement the program. In 2015, volunteers were honored by officials from the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, Washington D. C. because their efforts resulted in over 400 recorded interviews since affiliating with the VHP program. At that time, this was the most interviews recorded by a single organization. This was made possible volunteers and their dedication and commitment to recruiting and interviewing vets.

Veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and Iran, and other conflicts, plus civilians noted above, are welcome to contact The Red Cross Los Angeles Region Greater Long Beach, Rio Hondo and South Bay Chapter to be interviewed at a mutually agreed upon location, date, and time. While the primary geographic area served is Los Angeles County, vets in nearby Southern California areas have been interviewed based on unique or special circumstances such as being in a retirement home, or confined to their own or family home due to age or a medical condition.

Greater Long Beach, Rio Hondo and South Bay Chapter volunteers offer opportunities to train (some  restrictions apply) appropriate groups on how to set up and conduct this program. They also accept and train volunteers to work with the Red Cross and assist vets in locating a suitable VHP program outside of Southern California. In some situations, individuals can self-administer and submit their video to the Library of Congress according to guidelines listed on the Veterans History Project website.

During the interviews, a videographer/interviewer and a scribe who records notes on each interview work with the interviewee. These Red Cross volunteer two-person teams make it easy to participate by completing background forms and becoming familiar with each person prior to an interview.

The Red Cross Chapter conducts outreach efforts at special events where a significant number of vets may be in attendance, at live military musical performances, at military venues such as the USS Iowa, vets retirement homes, VA hospitals, and others. Inquiries for Red Cross outreach teams to attend various sites, venues, and organization meetings with information tables are welcomed, and presentations to select groups for VHP organizing purposes are also available.

Each interviewed person receives a DVD of their interview, a Certificate of Appreciation, and commemorative pin. And, of course, each interview will end up on the Library of Congress website, www.loc.gov/vets.

For further information, or to schedule an interview, please contact: Mike Farrar at 562-490-4003 (leave a clear message and call back number if the phone is not answered) or Mike.Farrar@redcross.org.

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