Collecting stories from our heroes and their families

The Veterans History Project onsite at the Gathering

A cowboy poetry gathering is known for music, poetry, humor, tall tales, and maybe even some true stories. The Gathering wants to hear even more true stories this year, as veterans trained by the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center will be onsite to collect and preserve the stories of the many military veterans among us.

One example of a veteran's story in poetic form

Established in 2001, the Veterans History Project began as a repository for oral history recordings of war veterans. It has expanded to include many types of original sources (like diaries, letters, artwork, and photographs) and to include stories from Gold Star families. With over 10,000 digitized collections after its first ten years and many more since, it has provided background for numerous important books, documentaries, movies, and audio programs. As Gathering board member Karen McGuire said, "The voice of the veteran is the only way we can get the true history of life in the military, the battles, and what happened at home while they were away. These are the men and women who were there, and that's why we need their stories. They're a gold mine."

Karen Lloyd during her career
as a US Army aviator

If you are a veteran, from any era, your story is important and should be shared with family, friends, fellow veterans, and future generations. Experience has shown that it can be easier to begin telling these stories in an environment like a cowboy poetry gathering, where we are all swapping tales and experiences. Col. Karen Lloyd (ret.), former director of the Veterans History Project and Gathering board member, will assist with this process, along with several veterans who have helped others tell their stories in poetry, prose, and audio- and video-recorded oral history interviews. This is a project that has been successful in other venues for several years, and we are excited to bring this opportunity to the Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Vess Quinlan, noted poet and Gathering board member, said, "It is cathartic talking and writing about a life-changing experience." He continued that what the Gathering is offering "is not a writing workshop. But it can be thought of as an enabling project to encourage telling the stories now or in the future."

Bill Jones, Col. Lloyd, and Vess Quinlan with a veteran after his interview

Col. Lloyd interviewed attendees at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada for several years. David Richmond, now a Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering board member, described what happened. "Between Karen's engaging personality and the fact she was a female veteran (career officer), she was able to break the ice. Her first time there, she demonstrated how easy it was to do an interview. The interviewer(s) do a pre-interview to find out about anything the veteran may not want to talk about. Two people do the interview - one to keep track of the time and to make notes about the content of the interview. The other person then does the actual interview in front of other veterans in the room. Karen brought two smart phones and two lapel mikes. The smartphone recorded the interview. Our first interviewee was a young Marine just back from Afghanistan. It blew everyone's mind. The dam just broke. We had many Vietnam veterans volunteer for interviews along with other veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan."

Facilitators will be available in the Morelock Building on the SRSU campus (Rooms 108 and 113) from 9:30-11:30 AM and 1:30 to 3:30 PM both Friday, Feb. 16 and Saturday, Feb. 17. These rooms are on the bottom floor of the building, and are accessible by the elevator (from the Marshall Auditorium level), or the entrance underneath the concrete front steps. Participating veterans will receive a copy of their interview on a thumb drive. All veterans keep the copyrights to their own stories and can control their use if selected for a commercial project.

Learn more about the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress.