May 4, 2016, Blue Bell/Pottstown, Pa.—Long after their time in the military, the stories of Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) veterans will live on, inspiring and educating future generations.
That is the goal of the College’s Veterans Coordinator, Mike Brown, as well as his colleagues from the Veterans Resource Center. During the fall semester, Brown began interviewing and capturing audio recordings of student veterans as part of the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center.
In all, Brown recorded the stories of 10 veterans so far. He plans to record the stories of many more of the College’s roughly 300 student veterans. Recordings will be permanently archived at the Library of Congress, where all recordings have been housed since the Veterans History Project began in 2000. Recordings are searchable online by war, military branch, the contributor’s name and various other search criteria.
“The variety of experiences from the students really has been fantastic to hear,” said Brown, an Army veteran who served in the infantry during a 1997 deployment to Bosnia. “I shared my story. Two generations from now my grandkids and great-grandkids will be able to listen to my story forever.”
The interviews, which must be a minimum of 30 minutes and generally span 45 to 90 minutes, cover the veterans’ early life, including where they are from, why they joined the military and details of their enlistment. While many who participated so far fought in combat zones, Brown said that is not required.
The College’s involvement in the nationwide effort is open to any and all veterans – even non-students.
“It’s a way to incorporate and include the community, not just the students,” he said. “We can live up to our community college name.”
One of the student veterans, for instance, interviewed his grandfather, a Korean War veteran, as well as his father, who is a Vietnam War veteran.
Sgt. William Keller, a business management student at Montgomery County Community College and an Army reservist coming up on eight years of service between the Army Reserves and the National Guard, said the recordings give the public a “more intimate” look at military life.
“I feel it’s important for veterans like myself to share their stories so other individuals have an opportunity to get a better understanding of what it’s like from our point of view instead of a social media point of view or the news,” Keller said, adding that listeners “get a chance to hear personal stories.”
Keller, who was deployed to Iraq from 2010-2011, called the experience “humbling.”
“The fact that we are given the opportunity to tell our story and that it gets preserved in the Library of Congress for eternity is a pretty honorable experience,” Keller said. “It’s not something that’s offered to every individual.”
- Theresa Katalinas