Earlier this month, the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) partnered with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Ohio to host a Veterans History Project event that captured the stories of nine American war veterans. The event was held in conjunction with the Ohio VFW’s mid-winter conference in Columbus, Ohio, and was so successful that it generated a story by a National Public Radio reporter which aired on a local radio station.
“This special VHP event kicked off a yearlong effort launched by OCRA to capture the stories of 100 American war veterans in 2020 to help celebrate the association’s 100th anniversary,” said Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, a captioner from Rittman, Ohio, and president of OCRA.
Linkowski said the partnership between OCRA and the Ohio VFW is a result of a relationship between NCRA Immediate Past President Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, CLR, a freelance court reporter from Springfield, Ohio, and the veterans’ organization.
“In 1975 the VFW meeting was Sue’s very first court reporting assignment. OCRA members knew we wanted to bring the VHP to Ohio in a purposeful way, and this partnership makes sense. We’re starting at the top with the commanders and have asked them to take the VHP back to each individual post, where local court reporters will participate in collecting stories,” she said. Linkowski also added that members of OCRA who manned a booth at the Ohio VFW event distributed additional information about the VHP program with various post commanders who attended the conference. To date, three VFW posts have begun looking at dates to hold VHP days.
“OCRA members and volunteers were able to collect the stories of nine veterans who represented service in the Army, Navy, and Air Force during WWII, the Vietnam War, Iraq, and a fighter jet pilot with stories from 9/11 that you never would have imagined, as well as many other conflicts,” Linkowski said. “The common theme was relationships that are formed when the person beside you has your life in their hands. The Ohio veterans laughed and cried as their service-time stories were told, and each of our volunteers expressed how they could listen to the stories over and over again.”
The court reporters and captioners who volunteered to help capture the stories were also assisted by a 13-year-old young man and Jeff Sindiong, an Ohio resident.
“I immediately realized that this is a very important project that preserves the stories of those whose stories should not be forgotten,” Sindiong said. “Most importantly, those of the servicemen and women of WWII, ‘The Greatest Generation,’ who won’t be around much longer to hand down the realities of what a war of that magnitude is like. We had the honor and privilege of hearing from a veteran who served as a turret gunner of a B-24 bomber, a veteran who, by some miracle, flew 34 missions and lived to tell about it,” he added.
The VHP program was launched by the Library of Congress to collect the stories of American war veterans by recording and transcribing interviews with them. In 2003, the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF), the philanthropic arm of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), partnered with the LOC to support the VHP program. To date, more than 3,000 veterans’ histories have been transcribed by members of NCRA and submitted to the Library for archival. The VHP is one of the most popular oral histories efforts supported by NCRA members. Participation in VHP events also serve to showcase the court reporting and captioning professions by allowing veterans, their family members, and other members of the public to see how court reporters and captioners use steno machines to capture and translate the spoken word into text.