On Nov. 10, the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF), in conjunction with the Library of Congress (LOC), collected the oral histories of 10 U.S. veterans who served in various wars during a Veterans History Project (VHP) event held at the Ginger Cove Retirement Community in Annapolis, Md., in honor of Veterans Day. The stories were from veterans who served during World War I, World War II, and the Cold and Korean wars.
“I was so touched by the stories of our veterans. I had no idea the depth to which they had suffered during the war, and I was so surprised at their willingness and even the need to talk about it,” said Diana Smith, director of resident services at Ginger Cove. “I would definitely undertake this project again in the future. I feel quite blessed to have had this opportunity.”
Since 2003, members of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) who volunteer their services have worked with NCRF and the LOC to record and transcribe the moving stories of nearly 4,300 U.S. war veterans, building a lasting legacy of the diverse group of men and women who have served our nation during times of war. The interviews are then submitted to the LOC, where they are archived for later use by scholars, students, and future generations.
The interviews have been taken during special VHP days held around the country and hosted by state and local court reporting associations, firms, and individuals. Nationally, NCRF has hosted a number of VHP events that have captured the unique and compelling stories of veterans, including several Purple Heart recipients and from veterans of World War I and those since then. NCRF has also hosted three Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project events that used volunteer captioners to enable veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss to be interviewed so their experiences could be chronicled. The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project was supported by a grant from the American Society of Association Executives.
At the Ginger Cove event, the stories of the following veterans were collected:
- James Andreatta – Cold War
- Frances Bombara – WWI (shared by his daughter)
- Sam Gustaves – WWII
- John Henderson – WWII
- Paul Herring – WWII
- John Kenny – WWII
- John Kuebelbeck – WWI
- Patrick O’Keefe – WWII
- Don Shearer – WWII and German prisoner of war (with an additional WWI collection donated by his niece)
- Mary Jo Sherron – Korean War (interviewed by her daughter)
Kerry Ward, liaison specialist with the LOC VHP, interviewed Martha Shearer, the wife of Don Shearer who served in WWII and was a German POW. Mrs. Shearer spoke on behalf of her husband who was also in attendance but suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Ward was clearly moved by the many photos and letters shared by the Shearers, especially reading the postcards sent by Don from the German prison camp where he was held to his mother back home. Ward noted that these were especially valuable to be included in the VHP archive collection.
Ginger Cove resident Tess Zarba, who is 92 years old, shared her father’s story of service in WWI with interviewer JoAnne Luciano. “It was really interesting to hear about what service was like for our soldiers back then and to see the photos and letters and other items Tess shared with me about her father’s service to our country. I learned so much,” noted Luciano.
NCRA members who volunteered to transcribe the oral histories at the event included:
- NCRA Director Steve Clark, CRC, a captioner from Washington, D.C.
- Cindy Davis, RPR, an official court reporter from Annapolis, Md.
- Bev Early, a captioner from Washington, D.C.
- Tonia Harris, RPR, an official court reporter from Washington, D.C.
- Michelle Houston, RPR, a captioner from Brandywine, Md.
- Julia LaCava, RPR, CRR, CRC, an official court reporter and captioner from Alexandria, Va.
- Linda Lindsey, a freelance court reporter from Preston, Md.
- Maellen Pittman, RDR, CRI, CLVS, a CART captioner from Baltimore, Md.
- Christine Slezosky, RPR, CRC, a CART captioner from Chambersburg, Pa.
“I am inspired by the veterans themselves. I have an uncle that landed on Omaha Beach. Unfortunately, he never talked about it, and I never got a chance to ask him if he’d be willing to share his story for this project,” said Davis, who transcribed the interview of WWII veteran John Kenny. “This time the event was held at Ginger Cove Retirement Community right in my own backyard. How could I say no?”
Davis, who has transcribed previous interviews from recordings for the VHP said that she would encourage all court reporters and captioners to participate in a VHP event because their stories are fascinating and important to preserve.
“Every day we lose more of our veterans. Who better to record their stories than a court reporter? The most gratifying part is just knowing I contributed,” she added.
“These stories need to be told and listened to, especially by the next generation,” said Martha Wooldridge, who conducted the interview with Kenny. “These veterans won’t be around very long to share their experiences and I think it was important for all to hear them and to pass them on.”