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Court reporters gather memories of vets

Court reporter Jackie Curran, interviewer Anne Mahoney, and veteran Mary Gorman.  Mary Gorman was a nurse in Vietnam.  One of her MedEvac patients, Bill Gay, tracked her down through a nurses’ association and had this quilt made for her to commemorate the last 50 years.  It was inscribed on the inside and dedicated to her.   

By Michelle Keegan

On Nov. 2 at Quincy College in Quincy, Mass., the interviews of 13 area veterans were collected as part of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress by several local court reporters. The mission of the project is to collect and preserve the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Each veteran was paired with a court reporter and an interviewer. The interviewer led each veteran through a series of questions designed by the Library of Congress to guide the veteran through his or her life before, during, and after the war.

Each veteran had a unique story to tell. Some of the interviews contained humorous stories where a veteran shared a story of how humor played a role in getting through challenging situations. There were moments of sadness, when everybody in the room allowed tears to fall as they recounted how fellow servicemen and family members were lost during the war. And there were moments of confusion as new parts of a veteran’s story came to light in the presence of a loved one in the room who was hearing of certain memories for the first time.

At the end of the interviews, as they were leaving the third floor of Quincy College, each veteran was asked how they felt about the morning that we all shared together. Each veteran relayed the same or similar sentiment: honored that they were being remembered in this way, grateful that their stories were being heard, and touched that the community came together to make this project happen in Quincy.

Richard Cook, 94, is a World War II veteran. Cook, of Boston, was aboard the USS John Land PA 167 in the 2nd Airborne Battalion.  He was shot in his left hip during his service.   He served from 1943 to 1946.  He was accompanied on Saturday by his children and grandchildren while telling his story.

As the Library of Congress website states, the planning and organizing of the project relies on community support. And the community supported this project on Saturday. Many local businesses donated items, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent ceremonial gold coins to give to each of the veterans. The coins were presented to each veteran by Rob Santiago, commissioner of veterans’ services for the city of Boston. State Sen. John Keenan spoke to the group before the interviews began and thanked everybody for participating in this very worthwhile and important project. Volunteers came from as far away as New Hampshire and the Cape. Interviewers and court reporters cleared their schedules Saturday morning and were united in the effort to honor our local veterans by listening to the stories and preserving them. The transcripts of the veterans’ interviews will be archived on the Library of Congress database.

Thank you to the veterans who shared their stories with us on Saturday! And a big shout-out to all of the court reporters who volunteered to interview and transcribe the stories: Justina Petinelli; Janet Sambataro; Elizabeth Bailey; Toni Beckwith, RMR of Watertown, Mass.; Dawn Mack; Jackie Curran, RMR of Stoneham, Mass.; Cari McGill; Kathy Silva, RPR, CRR, of Andover, Mass.; Lauren Buzzerio of Stoneham, Mass.; Darlene Sousa, RPR, of Stoneham, Mass.; Kim Smith; Sharon Saalfield, RPR, CRR, of Merrimac, Mass.; Mary Corcoran of N. Weymouth, Mass.; Kristin Tucker; and Jill Karoufas. You guys were all the best.

Through this project, we have gained a better understanding of the realities of war. And through this project, we will never forget.

Michelle Keegan, RMR, CRR, is a court reporter based in Quincy, Mass. She can be reached at