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Burnet Rotary Club, KBEY seek veterans for oral history project

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BURNET — After almost a year since the last time Susan Keck of the Rotary Club of Burnet and Damon Beierle of KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune recorded their first interviews for the Veterans History Project, the two are again signing up Highland Lakes veterans.

“We did our first three interviews in September of 2012, but then the equipment was stolen,” Keck said. Over the past year, Keck saved up money and purchased replacement equipment, so the two are forging ahead with the important project, which will land the interview and collaborating materials in the Library of Congress as part of the nation’s historical record.

The next recordings are scheduled for Jan. 15, 2014. While it’s still several weeks away, Keck said she hopes to get the word out to area veterans, especially those from World War II.

“If they are World War II vets, they go to the top of the list,” Keck said. “We know we’re losing them, and I really want to get as many of their stories as we can.”

The Veterans History Project got its start Oct. 27, 2000, when President Bill Clinton signed the Veterans’ Oral History Project Act into law. The idea was to create a program run by the Library of Congress to collect video and audio recordings of personal histories of American war veterans.

The legislation was in part due to a 1973 fire that destroyed millions of records stored at the National Personal Records Center. Though officials never could determine the total number of records destroyed, they estimate between 16 million and 18 million with most being from U.S. Army and Air Force personnel who served during World War II.

“This project hits very close to home for me because my daddy was a World War II veteran whose records were burned in that fire, so I don’t have anything of his to send to the Library of Congress,” she said. “So I’m not letting this project go.”

While there are other oral history projects, this particular one was specifically created to collect the stories and other personal materials for the Library of Congress. Keck said she has a oral history “field kit,” which includes a book on how to make the recordings.

“Because we want to make sure to get it into the Library of Congress, I’m going by the book,” she said.

The interviews last 15-30 minutes, possibly even longer, depending on the veteran.

“The questions are open ended, so the veteran can give us as much or as little information as he or she wants,” Keck said. “Some people don’t want to talk much about it, while others, they open up because nobody ever asked them.”

The first interview she and Beierle collaborated only took 15 minutes. The veteran has since passed away, but at his funeral, the family played the recording.

“That really validated what we’re trying to do,” Keck said.

People who had a veteran in their family who passed away also can help preserve their stories through original correspondences and visual materials.

The Veterans History Project collects first-hand accounts of veterans from all the wars from World War II through the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Rotary Club of Burnet is giving priority to World War II veterans because of their age.

Contact Keck at (512) 525-7077 or at newhrzn1@aol.com for more information or to schedule a recording.

daniel@thepicayune.com