Nancy Hopp, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CMRS, a freelancer from St. Louis, Mo., shared with the JCR some of her experiences with the Veterans History Project. The National Court Reporters Foundation is a partner with the Library of Congress in the project which is celebrating its 20th anniversary of preserving and making accessible these veterans’ stories.
JCR |When did you participate in the VHP?
NH | My first VHP experience was at the NCRA 2016 Convention & Expo in Chicago. The Sunday the convention ended also happened to be Purple Heart Day, and NCRA and NCRF staff set up a VHP event for Purple Heart veterans. I interviewed two Vietnam veterans, Kenny Laforge and John Domina. In 1970, at only 18 years of age, they were both wounded in the same attack as they served together. Their injuries were very serious, and although both survived, they returned to a country deeply divided by this unpopular war. Kenny and John were not acknowledged for their bravery or sacrifices, even by the existing veterans’ organizations. They had to essentially bury their experiences deep inside themselves and soldier on as they attempted to readjust, with great difficulty, to civilian life. This VHP experience, almost 50 years later, was the first time they had been invited to share their stories.
JCR | What made you interested to do it?
NH | My father, also a Purple Heart recipient, had served in World War II as an infantryman in Europe. He was deployed in France during a very bitter winter and suffered greatly from the privations of the battlefield. At age 83, while on his deathbed, he knit together all the little anecdotes he had shared throughout his lifetime into one very emotional and compelling story. It struck me at the time that he would not let himself die until he had finally shared in full this pivotal chapter of his life, even though it had happened more than 50 years prior. The idea of hearing other soldiers’ stories intrigued me further.
JCR | What did you think of the experience?
NH | Kenny’s and John’s stories really moved me. They were so young to have traveled halfway around the world, suffered severe injuries, and then forced to keep their stories to themselves. (My son was only a few years older at the time of these interviews, and I could not imagine him having to cope with experiences similar to what they had gone through.) But despite that, they were so very grateful for the opportunity to share their personal histories for posterity’s sake. They kept thanking me and reporter Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR, for making this possible. It was a very humbling moment.
JCR | Have you had other chances to be a part of the VHP program?
NH | As then-chairperson of NCRF, I had the honor of addressing the national convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Dallas, Texas, two years ago. Again, NCRA and NCRF staff scheduled a VHP event in conjunction with their convention, and I was able to interview more veterans. You just can’t imagine what it’s like to hear these horrifying and yet intimate stories. The gratitude these soldiers expressed will stay with me for a lifetime.