Veterans History Project celebrates 20th anniversary

NCRA Membership and Development Manager Brenda Gill, Director of State Government Relations Jocelynn Moore, Content Manager Heidi Renner, and Development Relations Manager Jill Parker Landsman

NCRA staff members recently delivered some of the Veterans History Project (VHP) transcripts members have produced to the Library of Congress (LOC).

NCRA members have transcribed 4,353 interviews for the VHP. NCRA Development Relations Manager Jill Parker Landsman, Membership and Development Manager Brenda Gill, Director of State Government Relations Jocelynn Moore, and Content Manager Heidi Renner visited the program at its headquarters in the Library of Congress.

Kerry Ward, liaison specialist with the Veterans History Project, said groups come to the LOC VHP office to present transcripts, and those presentations sometimes include ceremonies. Ward said the office’s role is to provide the inspiration and tools for a grassroots effort to help people share veterans’ stories.

This year, the VHP is celebrating its 20th anniversary of preserving and making accessible these veterans’ stories. They have 110,000 collections covering WWI to the present, and 60 percent of the materials are online.

“What a great honor it is to memorialize the narratives of our nation’s brave military veterans with this Oral History Project,” said Landsman, who also works for the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF), which, as the charitable arm of the Association, coordinates NCRA members’ transcription of the VHP audio and video. “Our court reporter members are eager to give back to their communities and their country. It amazes me how many members volunteer for this, share how touched they were by doing this, and want to transcribe yet another veteran’s oral history.”

The collections include people who served in many different ways. People will often say they didn’t do much, but that’s not true, Ward said. The interviews cover the full arc of someone’s life, including interviews, pictures, letters, artwork, and more.

“We’re not after the dramatic stories,” Ward said. “Things you don’t think are important can be important to someone else.”

Minimum requirements for a collection are a 30-minute audio or video interview, 20 pages or more of a journal or diary, and 10 photos, letters, or works of art. Those amounts can be mixed and matched. The information is then available to researchers; for instance, Ken Burns has used their records. They also hold workshops for groups of 25 or more on how to run a VHP day, like one that was held recently in Ohio.

It’s possible to see the veterans’ collections that have been put online. This link leads to the interviews that were transcribed by NCRA members.

Nancy Hopp, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CMRS, a freelancer from St. Louis, Mo., has been involved in multiple VHP interviews. “You just can’t imagine what it’s like to hear these horrifying and yet intimate stories,” she said. “The gratitude these soldiers expressed will stay with me for a lifetime.”

Read more about Hopp’s experiences with the VHP.

“In 2003, the Veterans History Project developed one of our most salient relationships when we collaborated with the National Court Reporters Foundation,” Ward said. “The transcriptions that NCRA/NCRF reporters contribute now allow historians, students of history, family members, and researchers to view these one-of-a-kind oral histories in printed form, which helps to emphasize the content and facilitate the usage.”

The Veterans History Project (VHP) is the first of several oral history projects that NCRF and NCRA members have supported through NCRF’s expanded Oral Histories Program.

How can a member be involved?

For questions or additional information about this program and other NCRF programs, please email ncrfoundation@ncra.org.

NCRA member quoted in article about the Veterans History Project

NCRA member Debbie Sabat, RPR, Trumbull County, Ohio, a probate court reporter, was quoted in an article posted May 28 by the Tribune Chronicle about NCRA’s involvement in the Veterans History Project program.

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Memorable photo of V-J Day creates intriguing interviews for Veterans History Project volunteer

This story was published in 2016. We are running it again after the recent death of George Mendonsa.

Nearly synonymous with the end of World War II is a photo usually called V-J Day in Times Square and sometimes The Kiss, the photo of a kissing sailor and nurse. Some even dub it the most famous kiss in American history. This 1945 shot was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt as Americans learned that the war was over.

For approximately 70 years though, the true identities of the sailor and so-called nurse remained a mystery, despite multitudes of men and women coming forward over the years claiming they were the subjects. Their identities were finally revealed in the release of the 2012 book, The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II. The sailor is George Mendonsa, and the nurse, who was really a dental assistant, is Greta Friedman.

Years earlier, in 2005, both Friedman and Mendonsa shared their stories for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, and this year, NCRF facilitated the transcription of these interviews.

“As a student, I had seen the iconic photo, as well as the media covering the reenactments that had taken place in Times Square at the 60th and 70th Anniversaries of V-J Day,” said Nancy Rowland, the retired reporter from Rimrock, Ariz., who transcribed these oral histories. “It is no surprise that this particular image became so famous, as it is symbolic of the end of a horrendous war where millions of lives were lost.  Because this was not a ‘staged’ photo but a candid moment, it captured the genuine raw emotions of joy and euphoria felt by all Americans that day.”

Mendonsa had been stationed in the Pacific during World War II and he saw firsthand the importance of nurses when his ship, the USS The Sullivans, rescued and transported hundreds of wounded sailors from the USS Bunker Hill, which was hit by a kamikaze airplane, to the hospital ship, the USS Bountiful.

“It was interesting to learn the reason behind why the sailor kissed the nurse, especially as his future wife was present with him!” said Rowland. “He believes that if this woman in Times Square did not have a nurse’s uniform on, he would never have grabbed and kissed her. It was a purely spontaneous act.”

There was some controversy surrounding this photo because the kiss did not seem consensual, as indicated by the woman’s body language and clenched fist. However, Friedman set the record straight in her interview.

“It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.  It was just an event of ‘thank God the war is over’ kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign,” Friedman told her interviewer, Patricia Redmond.

Rowland has transcribed more than 45 oral histories since 2012, but transcribing these two histories was a little different.

“Because of my familiarity with the photo, I was intrigued to learn the story behind the photo and wondered how the notoriety impacted their lives, these oral history interviews being conducted 60 years after the event,” said Rowland. “In that sense, initially these interviews were of a greater interest for me, and I was excited to have the opportunity to transcribe them.”

“But when the interview turned from George Mendonsa, The Kissing Sailor, to George Mendonsa, the World War II veteran relating his military career, the story brought back to the forefront the realization that all our veterans have a story of their unique contributions serving our nation, and the Veterans History Project gives them voice, even after they are no longer with us.”

To learn more about the Veterans History Project and how you can get involved transcribing histories, visit NCRA.org/vets.

NCRA member named employee of the year

NCRA member Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, an official court reporter for the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Lake County, Ill., was named employee of the year by the court, according to an article that appeared in the Daily Herald on Feb. 16. Cohen-Rojas was selected from 12 employees who were recognized as employee of the month. She was honored in part for her work with the Veterans History Project.

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U.S. Rep. Ron Kind recognizes Court Reporting & Captioning Week

In a post on his Facebook page, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) recognized the 2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week and noted that he is excited that the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association has partnered with the Library of Congress to record the oral histories of American war veterans as part of the Veterans History Project.

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Students can earn NCRA membership by participating in NCRF’s Oral Histories Program

National Court Reporters FoundationIn 2008, NCRF created the Student Initiatives Program as a means to involve students in its Oral Histories Program. The program, which has proven popular among students, will be continued into the 2015 membership year, allowing students who transcribe two oral histories from any of the Foundation’s partner organizations the opportunity to earn a free annual membership in NCRA.

NCRF’s Oral Histories Program serves as a way to do good while raising the stature of the court reporting profession to the general public. Among the organizations NCRF partners with through its Oral Histories Program is the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to support its Veterans History Project, which collects interviews of American war veterans to preserve their war memories. Court reporters transcribe these interviews for future generations to read and for historical research capabilities.

“No matter how many history books and movies that are out there, hearing the firsthand account of what happened during the war period will always be fascinating,” said PoSai Li, a court reporting student from Sacramento, Calif., who earned an NCRA membership by participating in NCRF’s Oral Histories Program.

“The veterans gave us a small glimpse of not just what the war was like, but how life was back in those times. It’s probably very similar to how our parents always tell ‘When I was your age, we didn’t have…’ stories.”

The Foundation also partners with the Center for Public Policy & Social Research at Central Connecticut State University and the Missouri Veterans History Project to ensure that the stories of wartime veterans from those states are made part of the VHP at the Library of Congress.

Through NCRF’s Oral Histories Program, court reporting students can also earn an annual NCRA membership through the National Equal Justice Library at Georgetown University, to help transcribe the school’s popular collection of oral histories provided by legal aid lawyers, administrators, and educators, and with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to help preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors.

“Transcribing these histories is time-consuming based on the fact that not many students are used to editing, reediting, and proofreading so many pages. But if someone has extra time on their hands, I would recommend participating in the VHP to them,” said Li.

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Lake County veterans tell their stories for Library of Congress

The Daily Herald posted an article on Nov. 11 about the Veterans History Project event held in Lake County, Ill. A total of 34 veterans were interviewed by volunteer court reporters for the event.

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Iowa veterans participate in Veterans History Project

The Newton Daily News published an article on Nov. 10 about a Veterans History Project event hosted by the Iowa Court Reporters Association and the Des Moines Area Community College that captured the war stories of 16 Iowans, in honor of Veterans Day.

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NCRA members exceed Veterans Day challenge

NCRF has announced that NCRA members exceeded the challenge to submit 3,500 oral histories of American war veterans to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project by Veterans Day 2014. The Foundation reports that 3,515 to date have been turned over to the Library of Congress.

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. The final transcripts are then submitted to the Library to be archived for future generations to read. Court reporters from around the country have actively participated in this program for more than a decade under NCRF’s Oral Histories Program.

“NCRA members are passionate about the VHP program as witnessed by the overwhelming response to meet and exceed the challenge of 3,500 interviews transcribed by Veterans Day. The Foundation is grateful to all who participated to make this happen including state associations, schools, individual members, state bar associations, and veterans groups,” said Irene Cahill, director of research and NCRF programs.

“These interviews are a vital part of our nation’s history, and the VHP is a powerful and priceless way court reporters can help preserve them for future generations. The Foundation looks forward to NCRA members to continue to reach out to our nation’s veterans,” Cahill added.

“We are excited about the members’ response to the challenge this year. In past years, NCRF has submitted an average of 325 transcripts per year. Thanks to the overwhelming efforts of the membership, NCRF has submitted more than 300 transcripts in half that time this year,” said B.J. Shorak, NCRF deputy executive director.

Across the nation Veterans Day was marked by Veterans History Project events. Groups that reported hosting events include: the Oregon Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Oregon State Bar’s Military and Veterans Law Section to hold events in three locations; the Iowa Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Des Moines Area Community College School of Court Reporting; the Hawaii Court Reporters and Captioners Association; the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Ingham County Department of Veterans Affairs and the Ingham County Circuit Court; and the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Orleans Technical Institute in Philadelphia. Other VHP events that helped collect transcribed interviews include: official court reporters from York County, Pa.; volunteers from the Illinois State Library; the Illinois Court Reporters Association, which teamed up with the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Lake County; students from Anoka Technical College, Anoka, Minn.; and court reporters from Paradigm Reporting, Minneapolis, Minn.

NCRF has partnered with the Library of Congress for more than 10 years to help generate transcripts of interviews with American war veterans for the Oral Histories Program. Professional court reporters can earn 0.25 Professional Development Credits for each transcript they complete and can earn up to a maximum of 1.0 PDC during each three-year certification period. Court reporting students can also earn a complimentary 2015 student membership in NCRA by transcribing two interviews through the Foundation’s Student Initiatives Program.

Read more about NCRF’s Oral Histories and Veterans History projects.








Stories of local U.S. military vets preserved for Library of Congress project

CBS Philly posted an article on Nov. 5 about a Veterans History Project event recently hosted by the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association and the Orleans Technical Institute. The article quotes one of the veterans who participated as well as NCRA member Julie Wilson, RPR, CRI, an official court reporter.

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