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Illinois NCRA members continue to honor nation’s veterans

Three NCRA members were mentioned by Lake County, Ill., officials as participants in the Nov. 11 Veteran History Project (VHP) event featured in the Chicago Tribune inviting former service members to the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., to give their oral histories. Cathleen Baker, a freelance court reporter from Northbrook, Ill.; Lisa M. Grau, RPR, CRR, an official from Darien, Ill.; and Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR, freelancer and firm owner from Lombard, Ill., were all kind enough to grant the JCR Weekly interviews sharing their experiences volunteering to transcribe the stories of veterans.

The VHP is just one of several oral history projects that the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) members have supported through the National Court Reporters Foundation’s (NCRF) Oral Histories Program. When asked what inspired them to join this event, there was a consistent theme of patriotism and professionalism. “As a daughter of a Korean War veteran and mother of an Illinois National Guard soldier, attending Veterans Day observances are important to me,” said Baker. “As a court reporter, being able to donate my skills to the Veterans History Project has been my honor.”

For Urlaub it has been a Veterans Day tradition for more than a decade. “Eleven years ago I received an email asking for court reporters to participate in a VHP event at the Lake County Courthouse which is an hour north of me. That was all I needed. The opportunity to use my skill to aid in the telling of the stories of heroes was all I needed.”

Each story veterans share is unique to that person, carrying experiences of all degrees. “Not all veterans who served were in combat. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected them for their entire lives,” said Grau, discussing a veteran’s experience in South Korea after the Korean War. “This particular veteran was deeply affected after serving in South Korea, being a young man, barely 18, living in a foreign country. It was very hard on him recalling his time there so many years ago.”

“I’ve found that most of the veterans I’ve listened to feel that they are not heroes but that they only did their job,” said Baker. “They made it home while others didn’t.”

Urlaub says she plans to regularly volunteer for this kind of event in the future. When asked if she’d be returning, Baker replied, “Of course I will be volunteering for this project as long as they keep inviting me.” All three volunteers encouraged their colleagues who haven’t volunteered for an oral histories project to do so. Grau, who said this is her seventh or eighth year transcribing veterans’ interviews, urged the court reporting community to try it once, “It is like nothing we ever do in our regular jobs, and it is so rewarding.”

Since 2003 NCRA members have volunteered their services by working with NCRF and the Library of Congress to record and transcribe the moving stories of many U.S. veterans and Gold Star families. As a result, NCRA court reporting and captioning volunteers have transcribed more than 4,500 oral histories and have conducted more than 1,500 oral histories with military veterans through this agreement. Many veterans have never made any formal record of their experiences. If you are interested in volunteering with NCRF to transcribe an oral history, learn more about the Veterans History Project here.

Reflecting on how it felt volunteering her professional services, Grau shared that she considered it an honor “To know their words will be in the Library of Congress for anyone to hear for future generations to come is just incredible.”