The last few weeks I have been checking the “Halloween Costume” racks at the local thrift stores liberating military uniforms from their peril. Whereas this is a bargain opportunity for me, I am disturbed by the fact that no one in the original owners family cared enough to keep them.
Once separated from the family the history of the veteran who wore it is usually lost forever. Only on rare occasion is there a name that is still readable, thus creating a possibility for research.
I can understand when people put fatigues and field uniforms in the used clothing bin, especially when it is the original owner. But when I find a World War II Class A uniform with all of the insignia still on it, I am puzzled.
Often I find the uniform stripped of all of the patches and insignia, then I optimistically assume that the family was making a shadow box to honor the Veteran.
So in commemoration of Veterans Day take the time to talk to the Veterans in your family, find out their story and document it for your descendants. If you don’t happen to have any in your family, talk to Veterans that you know at work, church, or in your neighborhood.
Then, encourage them to talk to the local historical society so that they can document their experience. Most of them will tell you that they didn’t do anything significant, but they are wrong, they were all significant.
Many historical societies are using digital voice recorders or video tape to capture the stories from people who have witnessed significant events. I am sure that they would be thrilled to interview any Veteran who is willing to talk to them.
The Army is using digital voice recorders for their combat historians, of which our editor is one. This not only documents the interviewee’s exact words, but it also captures the inflection and emotion in their voice.
Perhaps you are an amateur historian or aspire to be one? You can buy a good digital recorder for about fifty dollars. Then have at it.
You don’t have to talk just to veterans, start with the senior most members of your family.
Grandma’s story of the home front in WW II will probably be fascinating. I just found out the a lady that I have known for years was a “Rosie the Riveter” putting canopies on aircraft at a local factory during the war.
We are losing the World War II veterans at a tremendous rate. Let’s do our part to keep their memories alive for future generations.
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