In late 2017 and early 2018, while planning the Clinton County Honor Flight Reunion, a member of the committee posed this question: “Will the children, grandchildren and other family members of these veterans ever know as much about them and their experiences as some of us do?”
This question started a conversation that culminated in the formation of a committee of veterans and concerned professionals, resulting in the “Clinton County Veterans Oral History Project.”
Representatives from the American Legion, VFW, Clinton County Historical Society, Wilmington College, WALH radio and others make up the committee.
According to the 2016 U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, there were 18.8 million living U.S. military veterans at that time. Today, with an average of 3,500-plus veterans passing away each day, the number of living veterans is approximately 15.5 million, or less than 5 percent of the United States population.
With over a million veterans leaving this world every year, we will lose the first-hand knowledge of our country’s history, if it is not documented or recorded. As the American poet Robert Penn Warren once wrote: “History can not give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”
While this program will be unique to Clinton County in many ways, it closely follows the Library of Congress’s “Veterans Oral History Program”, authorized by Congress and initially funded by AARP in 2000.
The stated mission of both projects is to: “Collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American (Clinton County) war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”
The mission will be accomplished by accumulating and archiving a collection of:
• Personal narratives: Audio and video recordings
• Correspondence: Letters, postcards, V-Mail and personal diaries
• Visual materials: Photos, snapshots and drawings
The initial goal of the committee is to record and archive the experiences of 1,000 Clinton County veterans in the first two years, with an ultimate goal of all Clinton County veterans’ experiences archived.
One committee member stated: “I hope every veteran realizes the importance of this project and gets involved.”
In August, the committee will be extending an open invitation to all veterans of all wars and conflicts from World War II to OIF and OEF. When the point(s) of contact are established, additional information and scheduling forms will be available to interested veterans.