story by Sarah E. White, special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — Veterans of wars and even smaller conflicts want and need to share their experiences, no matter how long ago they served.
The Fayetteville Public Library is offering soldiers and supporting civilians the means to record their stories by hosting the Veteran’s Oral History Project. The program, administered by the Library of Congress American Folklife Center, gives veterans around the country a place to share their experiences and have them recorded and saved as part of the Library’s archive.
Randall L. Guendling, a volunteer interviewer for the Veteran’s Oral History Project, said he believes it’s important to record this part of the nation’s history. He is a Vietnam veteran whose full-time job is with the Arkansas Archeological Survey.
“Military service is just that, service, and represents the shared experience of millions of Americans,” he said. “Although the military experience has commonalities, each individual experience is unique.
“It happens in one’s late teens or early 20s and helps shape how you understand and view yourself, your nation and your government — especially bureaucracies — for the rest of your life. It is also a large slice of American history and those unique, as well as the shared, experiences should be preserved for future generations,” Guendling said.
Interview sessions can be arranged through July by calling (479) 856-7250.
The library is also hosting a veteran’s writing project, as well as a visit from University of Arkansas sociology professor Laurie Holyfield, who will read from her book Veterans’ Journey Home at 2 p.m. on July 22.
Holyfield helped train the volunteer interviewers who are helping veterans tell their stories.
With permission, the stories will be used in her research and may become part of the library’s digital archive as well as being stored at the Library of Congress, said reference librarian Willow Fitzgibbon.
Each generation has unique contributions.
Newer veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts can recall their stories while they are still fresh; veterans of longer-ago wars now have a different perspective on their experience.
“It’s important for everybody to know about the experience while people are still here to tell the stories,” Fitzgibbon said.