Guest Column: A meaningful way to thank our vets

Hebert "Lucky" Page earned his nickname during a World War II battle in the Pacific after he was thought to have been killed in action and placed with the remains of deceased Marines.

"I woke up and I was on the ship. I thought I was blind. I couldn't see," Page said. "They were cleaning my eyes out and I asked what happened to me. They said some Marines were walking by the dead Marines, and they heard me moaning so they pulled me out. They had pulled my dog tags, so they didn't have a name for me. The doctor who was working on me said I was lucky."

The Lake Conway resident told me his memories serving as a Marine during World War II and the Korean War for the Veterans History Project, a project of the Library of Congress that preserves the oral histories of our nation's veterans. Hearing his personal accounts of war was unforgettable. His stories depict the harsh reality of war but also underscore his selfless sacrifice and dedication.

With more than 100,000 stories from American veterans, the VHP collection is home to the largest oral history archive in the U.S. I will submit Page's interview to the VHP so future generations can access his story to better understand the realities of war through the eyes of this veteran.

These histories are compiled through audio or video recorded interviews in addition to original correspondence, photographs, maps and diaries to forever memorialize our veterans in history. Many of these interviews are accessible on the Library of Congress's website.

Each of our veterans has their own memories of their wartime experience. Once they are gone, so are their stories. That's why I'm proud of the work my office is doing to preserve their histories.

My staff has hosted 11 workshops since last year, training more than 260 people to capture these living histories. I'm pleased to see the enthusiasm of Arkansans to join the project. These workshops have encouraged professors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of the Ozarks to incorporate the VHP into coursework.

Two of the biggest champions of the VHP in Arkansas are Hot Springs Village residents Jeff and Jeanne Meek. I am inspired by their dedication and commitment to sharing the stories of our veterans. Jeff has collected the oral histories of hundreds of veterans that are part of the VHP collection. As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Jeanne helps submit these interviews to the collection.

VHP is very much a collaborative effort. Veteran Service Organizations and other organizations like DAR and the American Red Cross join to help with interviews or related costs.

The American Red Cross also helps train interviewers, supplies equipment and provides the veteran with a commemorative DVD copy of the interview.

The VHP recently recognized the training conducted across Arkansas by my office. I'm proud of the efforts of my staff to promote this important program and encourage others to become involved and preserve the memories of our veterans. As we celebrate Veterans Day, participating in the VHP is a meaningful way to thank these men and women for their service and sacrifice while honoring their commitment to our nation.

Editorial on 11/10/2016

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