NCRA member’s husband inspired by wife’s VHP work, preservation of history

seated image of WWII veteran Donald Fida

WWII veteran Donald Fida, who fought at the Battle of Kwajalein and Okinawa

NCRA member Anne Messineo, RPR, an official court reporter from Fayetteville, N.Y., is not at all surprised that her husband, Joe, became involved in the Veterans History Project effort. According to her, Joe became hooked on the effort after asking about four transcriptions she was completing for the VHP to earn PDCs.

“Joe has always had a soft spot for American servicemen and women,” said Anne. “I think this has helped him to appreciate the depth of character exhibited by our veterans.”

Joe, a senior vice president and regional sales director for a bank specializing in equipment finance, and Anne, a veteran official court reporter with more than 35 years of experience, have teamed up with friend and videographer Mike Whalen to conduct VHP interviews with U.S. war veterans from the New York area. In May 2015, the trio was featured in an article posted on Syracuse.com showcasing their work recording the story of World War II veteran Don Fida. His story describes his capture and near-death experience on the Island of Kwajalein during the war.

Since becoming involved in the VHP program, Joe has interviewed 20 U.S. war veterans. In November 2015, he was invited to participate in the Central New York Expo, which typically draws between 3,000 and 5,000 attendees. According to Joe, the purpose of the booth was to help generate interest about the VHP effort among veterans as well as increase the public’s awareness about the importance of preserving these histories.

 WWII veteran Ray Salvie and Rep. John Katko


WWII veteran Ray Salvie, who fought at Iwo-Jima, and Rep. John Katko

Although the venue proved to be too noisy to conduct real interviews, Joe said that at the booth he played videos of past interviews with veterans and was joined by U.S. WWII veterans Don Fida and Ray Salvie, whose stories he had previously recorded.

“History is written by people who are typically removed from the actual event by years or decades. The authenticity of a firsthand account is priceless,” said Joe. “The video reveals the intense emotion that is drawn from a participant who is reliving the most poignant part of their past. When they talk about intense moments you can watch their gaze drift off into a 1,000-yard stare, their eyes narrow, their voice changes and they are no longer with us in the present; they are on the battlefield. It is mesmerizing.”

“I was motivated to get involved by my wife Anne and my respect for men and women who would die for me and the freedom of their countrymen. We are running out of time for WWII veterans,” Joe continued. “The veterans’ stories will be enshrined forever at the Library of Congress but just as important is the legacy that they will leave their family. Twenty or 30 years from now, their great-great-grandchildren will sit in silent awe when they listen to history come alive.”

The Veterans History Project is the first of several oral history projects supported by NCRF and NCRA members through NCRF’s expanded Oral Histories Program. Since 2003, NCRA members, who volunteer their services, have worked with NCRF and the Library of Congress to record and transcribe the moving stories of many U.S. war veterans, building a lasting legacy of the diverse group of men and women who have served our nation during wartime.

The VHP program was expanded in 2007 through the 1,000 Voices Initiative, which took the project to the public asking them to interview any veteran they might know. Many veterans have never made any formal record of their wartime experiences but are willing to sit down and talk with someone who will listen. This initiative continues to play an important role in preserving veterans’ stories. For more information about the VHP program, contact April Weiner, NCRF Foundation Assistant at 703-584-9052 or aweiner@ncra.org.