Jefferson City high school hosting oral veterans' history project

1 week 6 days 14 hours ago Saturday, November 11 2017 Nov 11, 2017 Saturday, November 11, 2017 4:00:00 AM CST November 11, 2017 in News
By: Maia McDonald, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - One high school in Jefferson City is hoping to keep the Veterans Day message alive after the holiday ends. Starting Friday, Helias Catholic High School is accepting sign ups for an oral veterans' history project. The project is part of a partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans' History Project whose aim is to document veterans personal stories.

"Veterans are asked to tell their story in video fashion and then the video is them uploaded on the Library of Congress server and then for posterity we can hear their stories," said Emmel, a history teacher at Helias who's in charge of the project."

From today until December 31st, the school will allow veterans to sign up via the Helias website in order to get involved.

"Starting in January, we're inviting the veterans to come to Helias and tell their story," said Emmel. 

Veterans interested in the project are also being asked to give up some of their mementos from wartime for inclusion in the Library of Congress. This could include discharge papers, photos, journals and more.

Emmel said Helias' involvement in the project came from two staff members who happen to be veterans and knew about the Veteran's  History Project.

"They both were aware of it and they both came to me and said this would be something god for Helias," said Emmel. 

Emmel's junior history class will also be working on project. They'll help interview and film the veteran's as part of a class requirement.

"I have juniors that are taking my class for college credit so they need to do primary research on the college level anyway," said Emmel. 

However, Emmel said the project is should be much more than a grade to the students.

"My juniors get to understand history on a first person account--primary research--and the veterans get to tell their stories," said Emmel. 

Andrew Bexten, a student in Emmel's class has his own connection to the project. 

"I have one veteran in my family," Bexten said. "It's my great-grandpa, and I never met him so I don't have many first-hand experiences but I think this will be a great opportunity to get more."

Bexten's own family recently discovered a pocket bible belonging to his great-grandfather, who served in World War II.  Similar to the Veterans History Project, he said getting to learn some of his great-grandfather's story has made him really proud. 

"I've kind of gone through that and it's interesting to see where he was on certain days while he was reading it and what he wrote."

That pride is something that Emmel, whose father and father-in-law were veterans themselves, shares with his student.

"Both of those gentlemen have died. I remember their story but only bits and pieces," Emmel said. "It would be a whole lot nicer if I could have interviewed them, put it down on some type of recording so that we could understand them years and years later."

Emmel reflected on some of his regrets regarding his family's veterans. 

"I was the very end of the Vietnam War and when the veterans came home, we didn't talk about it. I have two cousins that served in Vietnam. I have a brother-in-law that fought in Vietnam but when they came home we didn't talk about it," Emmel said.

Emmel isn't a veteran himself but reflecting on his veteran family members and his college roommate who died while serving in the Marines reminds of the importance of this history project. 

"Many times we only celebrate the veterans on Veterans Day," Emmel said. "I think that the Veteran's have sacrificed a great deal and this is something we, the American people, must talk about each and everyday. Veterans' sacrifices are great. There's the internal things they had to give up and there's also the things they gave up from their families. They miss Christmases. They miss birthdays and I don't think people sometimes understand the sacrifices that our veterans make."

Any veteran who received an honorable discharge is encouraged to go to the Helias website  or contact Tom Emmel in order to learn how to get involved with the project. 

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