NCRF Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project captures Purple Heart recipients’ stories

Two women, one holding a plaque in the shape of a scroll, stand in front of a banner reading "America's Combat Wounded Veterans -- Purple Heart Recipients." The wording is wrapped around an image of the Purple Heart medal in front of a bald eagle whose wings turn into the American flag.

April Weiner and Nancy Hopp accepted a plaque on behalf of NCRF from the Military Order of the Purple Heart

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) hosted a third Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative on Aug. 14 at the 86th Military of Order of Purple Heart (MOPH) 2017 Convention held in Dallas, Texas. Volunteer court reporters and captioners from the Texas Court Reporters Association were joined by a number of volunteer interviewers including NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRMS, from St. Louis, Mo., to help chronicle the service experiences of nine veterans from a number of different military branches and different wars, which will be transcribed for the U.S. Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP).

The event was also featured in two segments that aired on KDFW-DAL Fox 4 News.

“I’m proud of the work court reporters and captioners have done to preserve veterans’ stories,” said Hopp during a presentation to attendees at the MOPH event. “We owe it to you brave men and women to make sure your stories live on for the benefit of your families, historians, and the American people.”

In her remarks, Hopp shared that her own father was drafted in the infantry in his late 20s and served in Europe during World War II. He received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during his active service.

“Over the course of his life, my dad would tell us isolated anecdotes from his wartime experiences. In 1998, when he was 83 years old and on his deathbed, I flew to Florida to visit him in the hospital. When I arrived, he took off his oxygen mask, and he proceeded to knit together all those little war stories he had shared over the years into one compelling and poignant narrative of his experience,” Hopp said.

Noting that her father’s story was an amazing tale of terror, courage, and, most of all, a strong sense of duty, Hopp added that she was struck at the time by how he would not let himself die until he had a chance to unburden himself of experiences he had had 50 years earlier.

Back view of a conference room with a seated audience -- mostly men and some wearing commemorative military service hats. A woman stands at the podium in the front of the room. On the projector is a black and white photographer of a smiling young man in uniform, probably circa the 1940s

Nancy Hopp shares a few words about her father (pictured) at the Military Order of the Purple Heart convention

“I so wish I could have preserved his story both for posterity and as evidence of the personal sacrifices he made,” said Hopp as she encouraged those in the audience to share their stories for the Library of Congress program.

NCRF’s work promoting VHP programs like the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes initiative is important because it helps veterans who have never spoken of their service share their stories, said Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official court reporter from Arlington, Texas, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, who volunteered at the MOPH event.

“As court reporters, we sometimes are too focused on the financial side of what we do, but (volunteering) is giving back. Anyone thinking of participating in one of these events should just jump right in and do it. It’s well worth it,” added Xavier.

For volunteer interviewer Mark Kiernan, from The Colony, Texas, participating in the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes event was extremely gratifying especially since his own son was wounded during service in Afghanistan. He attended the event with his wife, Therese Casterline Kiernan, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter who volunteered to capture the stories of the veterans he interviewed.

“I would absolutely do this again. I think it is important that people learn and understand how much those who seserve — and their families, too — sacrifice. When my son was injured, the first person I saw in the hospital said to me that everyone now needs to learn a new normal. Hearing a veteran’s story could be the learning experience of a lifetime,” added Kiernan.

Other court reporters, captioners, and interviewers from Texas who volunteered their time to support the NCRF event included:

  • Kacie Adcock, RPR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast and CART captioner from Arlington, and her husband, Ryan
  • Mellony Ariail, RMR, CRR, CRC, an official court reporter from Corinth
  • Jennifer Collins, a captioner from Fort Worth
  • Terra Gentry, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter from Rockwall
  • Lisa Hundt, RPR, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Dallas
  • Brynna Kelley, RPR, CRR, a broadcast captioner from Dallas
  • Brian Roberts (interviewer)
  • Vicki Smith, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Lewisville
  • Vonda Treat (interviewer)
  • Kathleen Ullrich, RPR, CRR, a CART captioner from Seguin
Four people sit around a table -- two are in coversation while the other two write the conversation on a steno machine and provide captioning

(l->r) Kimberly Xavier records an oral history while Nancy Hopp asks veteran Benny Duett questions and Jennifer Collins provides CART.

The veterans interviewed included:

  • Richard Chenone, New Berlin, Wis., who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals for his service.
  • Benny Duett, Meridian, Miss., who served as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Campaign, and the Vietnam Service medals for his service.
  • James Gordon, Stone Mountain, Ga., who served as an E6 in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the National Defense, the Vietnam Service, and the Vietnam Campaign medals for his service.
  • Bill Grumlett, San Antonio, Texas, who served as a captain in the U.S. Army in Korea and Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Service, and the Korea Service medals for his service.
  • Robert Hunt, Cordova, Tenn., an E5 (sergeant) in the U.S. Army who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and earned two Purple Heart medals for his service. Hunt was accompanied by his golden retriever service dog, Baron, during his interview.
  • Kevin Hynes, New Bern, N.C., a captain in the U.S. Air Force who served in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Airman’s Medal, two Bronze Stars, and an Air Medal for his service.
  • Robert Lance, location not given, who served as a sergeant major E9 in the U.S. Marine Corps in Korea and Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart medal for his service.
  • Leonard Lang, Blanchard, Okla., an E5 in the U.S. Army who served in Korea and Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star medal for his service.
  • Bobby McNeill, Charlotte, N.C., who served as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam and earned the Purple Heart, National Defense Service, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign with Device, and Meritorious Mast medals for his service.

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss with the help of CART captioning. Hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat, and it tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

NCRF launched the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md., in February, where five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss chronicled their service experiences. In June, seven veterans were interviewed during the 2017 Hearing Loss Association of America’s Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. NCRF is seeking volunteers to participate at a fourth event in October during the Association of Late-Deafened Adults conference being held in Orlando, Fla.

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of now more than 100,000. In 2007, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted more than 4,100 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes initiative is supported by an Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives Foundation. For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF, or contact April Weiner, Foundation Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

NCRF hosts a second Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Veterans History Project

The National Court Reporters Foundation hosted a second Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative on June 23 at the 2017 Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Volunteer court reporters, captioners, and interviewers turned out to help chronicle the service experiences of seven veterans, which will be transcribed for the U.S. Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP).

Four people sit around a table in a hotel conference room. Two women, in the back, are concentrating intently (while transcribing). In the foreground, two men are in conversation. The man on the right has war injuries, primarily seen on his face.

Retired Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris (front right), who received life threatening injuries while serving in Iraq, is interviewed by retired Lt. Lynn Hinckley (front left). Cecilee G. Wilson (back right) provides CART while Amber Fraass (back left) transcribes.

Among those interviewed was HLAA convention keynote speaker retired Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris, who served in the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He suffered severe third degree burns on 35 percent of his body after his armored vehicle was struck by an IED in February 2007.

Harris’s injuries also included the loss of both ears, the tip of his nose, three fingers, and numerous broken bones. The devastating injuries required that he remain in a medically induced coma for 48 days; after, he spent nearly three years recovering and undergoing intensive physical therapy at the burn unit of the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. Harris received numerous awards for his service including a Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal three times.

While at BAMC, he was the first soldier to participate in cutting-edge regenerative stem-cell research to regrow his fingers and later received prosthetic ears. His recovery has involved more than 75 surgeries. He also has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. In 2010, Harris was medically retired from the Army. He is now a motivational speaker and author of Steel Will: My Journey through Hell to Become the Man I Was Meant to Be.

“If it isn’t written down, it did not happen,” said retired Lt. Lynn Hinckley, who served 26 years with the U.S. Army National Guard and volunteered to interview Harris. “My personal takeaway is that stories are important and allow us to pass on our heritage. Personal stories are just that, personal; they carry a power that nothing else can match,”

Hinckley also had the opportunity to interview Randal “Randy” Nelson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served during both Gulf Wars including deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nelson earned many awards over the course of his service, including two Bronze Stars and three Legion of Merit awards. Originally from South Dakota, Nelson now resides in North Carolina. During his interview he shared how he lost his hearing in his left ear during a Jet Ski accident, but was allowed to continue his military career by overcoming balance issues and learning to rely on his right ear.

During the interviews, the two veterans were able to connect having both served in the same locations in Iraq, a connection that appeared to help the interviewer and interviewee draw upon a camaraderie that is inherent among veterans.

Four people sit around a table in a hotel conference room. In the back is a middle-aged woman concentrating while transcribing on a steno machine. On the left and right are two men -- one younger, one older, in conversation. In the foreground is the back of a yong woman; her steno machine is in front of her and a laptop is on the table with the spoken words appearing on the screen in real time.

Retired Marine Corp combat veteran Don Doherty (left) is interviewed by Patrick Holkins (right). Amber Fraass transcribes (middle), while Phoebe Moorhead (far right) provides CART.

“This project provides an opportunity for nonveterans to get a feel for what military life is like. This is information that would have died with the veteran if not for this project,” said Hinckley.

Other veterans interviewed during the event included:

  • Don Doherty, a retired Marine Corps combat veteran, who lost his hearing during the Vietnam War and has worn hearing aids since 1970. Over the course of his service, Doherty earned the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than 20 years and currently serves as the vice-chairperson for HLAA. He resides in Moyock, N.C., and was interviewed by fellow HLAA board member Patrick Holkins, an attorney from Washington, D.C.
  • Mike Wehman, a Radioman 2nd Class and Shellback, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He served on the Charles S. Sperry destroyer ship, the Wright communications ship, and the Benewah – floating command center in the Mekong Delta. Wehman earned the Vietnam Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal. He resides in Des Plaines, Ill.
  • Retired Lt. Commander Ron Tallman, who served 22 years in the U.S. Navy. He served during the Vietnam and first Gulf War and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal, among others He is a board member of the Sun Lakes, Ariz., HLAA chapter and co-chair for the Arizona Walk4Hearing. He is originally from Seattle, Wash., and resides in Arizona.
  • Gerald “Jerry” Hutch, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War/pre-Vietnam era as an Airman 1st Class E-4. He was born in McKees Rocks, Pa., and served his entire tour of duty in Texas. He currently resides in Helena, Mont. Hutch is legally blind due to age-related macular degeneration has severe hearing loss in both ears, and uses digital hearing aids.
  • Louis Shaup, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War as an SP4 and E-4. He served in the Military Assistance Advisory Group Vietnam, conducting top-secret Army intelligence. Shaup earned several awards for his service, including the Vietnam Service Medal. He was born in Ashland, Penn., and now resides in California.

“This interview opportunity was an incredibly profound experience for me,” said Matthew R. Barusch, NCRA’s Manger of State Government Relations, who volunteered to talk with U.S. Army veteran Louis Shaup.

“The opportunity to hear a firsthand account of Louis’ wartime experience was both moving and humbling, and for me, reinforced the necessity of the Veterans History Project. These veterans, who sacrificed a lot to serve our country, deserve to have their stories heard and preserved, and I was honored to be a part of that preservation,” Barusch said.

Interviewers and captioners from Utah who also volunteered their time to support the NCRF event included NCRA members:

  • Amber Fraass, RPR, a freelance reporter from South Ogden
  • Heidi Hunter, RPR, a freelance reporter from Salt Lake City
  • Kristin E. Marchant, RPR, a freelance reporter from South Jordan
  • Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, a freelance reporter from North Ogden
  • Rossann Morgan, RPR, a freelance court reporter from West Jordan
  • Ariel Mumma, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Salt Lake City
  • Michelle Naert, RPR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Saratoga Springs
  • Lindsay Payeur, RPR, a freelance reporter from Grantsville
  • Laurie Shingle, RPR, CMRS, from Pleasant View
  • Cecilee G. Wilson, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner from Kaysville

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss with the help of CART captioning. Hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat, and it tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

NCRF launched the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at HLAA’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md., in February, where five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss chronicled their service experiences.

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of now more than 100,000. In 2007, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted more than 4,100 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes initiative is supported by an Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives Foundation. Two more Hard-of-Hearing Heroes events will take place at the Military Order of the Purple Heart National Convention being held in Dallas, Texas, in August, and at the Association of Late-Deafened Adults annual convention being held in Orlando, Fla. in October. NCRF is currently seeking volunteers to participate at both of these events. For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF, or contact April Weiner, Foundation Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

Preserving history

Tiva Wood (left) interviews Edward Connor, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

Tiva Wood (left) interviews Edward Connor while Michelle Houston provides CART.

NCRF’s new Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project takes the Veterans History Project to the next level

By April Weiner

Edward Connor was dining in the mess hall when the Japanese bombed his base during World War II. Everyone was running for cover in a nearby ditch. “I landed on a guy and said to him: ‘As soon as we get out of this, I’ll take my feet out of your face,’” Major Connor told NCRA President Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, who was interviewing him for the Veterans History Project (VHP). “He said, ‘You leave your feet where they is,’” since the feet were protecting the other soldier’s head. Major Connor lost most of his hearing when one of the bombs struck an airplane close to the ditch, but that didn’t prevent him from finishing his mission before returning home to seek treatment.

Connor, who served in the Air Force, was one of five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss who chronicled their service experiences for the VHP at the National Court Reporters Foundation’s launch of its Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) headquarters in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 18. The other veterans interviewed were: Fred Becchetti, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II; David McWatters, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War; Charles Rupprecht, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War; and James Whitcraft, who served in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War, among other conflicts. (Rupprecht and Whitcraft were interviewed over the phone.)

Glynis Locks takes down the interview of Charles Rupprecht.

Glynis Locks takes down the interview of Charles Rupprecht.

Court reporters and captioners traveled from as far as southern Virginia and Pennsylvania to volunteer their time and skills to preserve these veterans’ experiences for the VHP.

“Veterans always thank the court reporters who capture and transcribe their stories at events like the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project,” said Wood, who is a freelancer based in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “But truly, we are the ones who are thankful for being given the opportunity to honor them by ensuring that their stories become part of history forever through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Being able to capture and preserve the stories of our war heroes who are hard of hearing takes a combined effort of the skills of court reporters and captioners and highlights the important role they play in allowing this group of veterans to tell their stories.”

In addition to Wood, the volunteers at the event were Cheryl Hansberry, RDR, CRR, CRC, Harrisburg, Pa., and her husband, Mike; Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, Carlisle, Pa.; Glynis Locks, Norfolk, Va.; Michelle Houston, RPR, Brandywine, Md.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Nashville, Tenn.; Jan Hamilton, RDR, Arnold, Md.; Christina Hotsko, RPR, Arlington, Va.; and Meredith Dattoli, Bethesda, Md.

Hamilton transcribed Major Connor’s interview: “The most memorable thing for me was hearing [Connor] speak of the various battles, in the air and on the ground, and his bravery that led to him ultimately being awarded the Silver Star. It was a humbling experience to meet a decorated soldier of this era.”

Dattoli interviewed Rupprecht, and the experience was personally meaningful for her. “The most interesting part of our conversation to me was the fact that his hearing loss was the result of an accident,” said Dattoli. “He was only 21 or 22 when, while participating in training exercises, he happened to be right next to a missile that accidentally went off, which led to the hearing loss that he still experiences today, more than 40 years later. In the grand scheme of things, he was lucky that nothing worse happened, but his story really opened my eyes to how much the men and women in our military sacrifice every day, even if they aren’t on the front lines.” She added: “Having the opportunity to interview Mr. Rupprecht and hearing his story hit especially close to home for me because my older brother is in the Navy and my boyfriend is in the Army, and I have a higher appreciation now for how lucky they have been.”

From L to R: Cheryl Hansberry transcribes as Mike Hansberry interviews Fred Becchetti, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

From L to R: Cheryl Hansberry transcribes as Mike Hansberry interviews Fred Becchetti, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of now more than 100,000 oral histories. In 2013, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted more than 4,100 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

“This was one of those special moments in life where I was doing something for someone else,” said Larson. “[McWatters’] story will be preserved because I was there providing court reporting and then later transcribed it. His story will be stored at the Library of Congress and be a part of history.”

The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is a new NCRF initiative that specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss for the VHP with the help of CART captioning. This is important because hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat. Hearing loss also tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

“One can’t help but become engrossed while listening to these amazing veterans tell their stories as if it were yesterday,” said Houston. “[Major Connor’s] wife reminded him to share events and awards he had left out to ensure we got the whole story. We were eager to hear it as well. It was a privilege and an honor to provide CART captioning for this project.”

Washington D.C.’s news channel NBC4 came to the event and heard from two of the veterans interviewed, Becchetti and McWatters, as well as NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak. “I was surprised to be on the Channel 4 News so much and that it was mostly as a hand model,” said Larson. “It was one of those days where you just don’t know what you’re getting into and you leave feeling like, I’m happy that I was there. It was a good day.”

From left to right: Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton.

From left to right: Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton.

NCRF will host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days across the country, supported by an Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives Foundation. The next event will be held during HLAA’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June, and a third event is planned in conjunction with the Association of Late-Deafened Adults’ annual convention, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., in October.

For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

April Weiner is the National Court Reporters Foundation Manager. She can be reached for more information at aweiner@ncra.org.

NCRF launches Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project during Court Reporting & Captioning Week 2017

Veterans and court reporters at the kickoff Hard-of-Hearing Heroes event

Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Major Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton

NCRF launched the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) headquarters in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss chronicled their service experiences for the Veterans History Project (VHP):

  • Fred Becchetti, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II
  • Edward Connor, who served in the Air Force in World War II
  • David McWatters, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War
  • Charles Rupprecht, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War
  • James Whitcraft, who served in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War, among other conflicts

Rupprecht and Whitcraft were interviewed over the phone.

Court reporters and captioners traveled from as far as southern Virginia and Pennsylvania to volunteer their time and skills to preserve these veterans’ experiences for the VHP collection at the Library of Congress.

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of now more than 100,000. In 2013, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted more than 4,000 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is a new NCRF VHP initiative that specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss with the help of CART captioning. Hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat, and it tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

Washington D.C.’s news channel NBC4 was on-site to hear from two of the veterans interviewed, Becchetti and McWatters, as well as NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak.

According to McWatters, veterans need to be educated on services they are entitled to.

“Veterans aren’t getting the information,” McWatters told NBC4. “If they had the information, they could use it. They have benefits.”

NCRF will host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days across the country, supported by an Innovation Grant from the ASAE Foundation. NCRF will host an event during HLAA’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June, as well as at the Association of Late-Deafened Adults annual convention in Orlando, Fla., in October.

For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF, or contact April Weiner, Foundation Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

NCRF Hard-of-Hearing Heroes oral histories project spotlighted

jcr-publications_high-resThe Andrews Gazette (Easton, Md.) posted an article about the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Veterans History Project event that NCRF and the Hearing Loss Association of America will host on Feb. 18 in Bethesda, Md., as part of NCRA’s 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Read more.

Court reporting schools and state associations across country honor veterans through the Veterans History Project

Many court reporting schools, state associations, firms, and courthouses across the nation celebrate Veterans Day by interviewing veterans about their wartime experiences for the Veterans History Project (VHP). These VHP Days have become annual traditions in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, to name just a few places.

Iowa Court Reporters Association & Des Moines Area Community College

For the past eight years, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) has partnered with a local court reporting school to host a VHP Day in November. The event was hosted at AIB College of Business until the school closed its court reporting program in 2012. When Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) picked up AIB’s court reporting program, it also happily picked up the partnership with ICRA. Between the partnerships with AIB and DMACC, ICRA has interviewed almost 200 veterans.

On Nov. 4, DMACC and ICRA hosted their third shared VHP Day and interviewed 12 veterans who had served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The event involves more than simply interviewing veterans. This year, the local color guard posted the colors, Renee Davenport sang the national anthem, and Col. Greg Hapgood from Camp Dodge in Johnson, Iowa, handed out framed certificates to the veterans following a catered luncheon.

The event provides an opportunity to recognize veterans for their service, even when the veterans do not believe there is anything noteworthy about their service.

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler. (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

“The common theme I have noted among all stories is that they don’t feel that their service was of any particular importance,” said Pamela Burkle, RPR, an official from Urbandale, Iowa, one of the organizers of the annual event. “But when you put them all together, they are important. One part cannot work without the other. One veteran said he made bread, and that was his job, and he didn’t feel it was very important. However, I think if you asked any of the veterans in his platoon, they would say their bread/food was an integral part of their survival.”

Since the event is hosted at DMACC, court reporting students are invited to participate as student guides and room monitors. In addition to hearing the veterans’ stories, which have a profound impact on everyone in the room, the students get the opportunity to speak with the seasoned court reporters who are transcribing the interviews.

“I was speaking with the student in my room and explaining how I was adding to my job dictionary based on the conversation the interviewer and the veteran were having prior to the interview starting,” said Burkle. “She had no idea how that worked, and she told me that she thought I was having computer problems because I kept going back to my laptop.”

There is a sense of urgency to interviewing veterans before it’s too late. “Last year, shortly after the histories were taken, a couple of the veterans passed away before the transcripts were even completed,” said Burkle. Fortunately, their stories will live on in the Library of Congress.

Anoka Technical College & Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners

The Judicial Reporting Program at Anoka Technical College in Minnesota has hosted an annual VHP Day the Saturday before Veterans Day since 2008, interviewing approximately 50 veterans to date. Working closely with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners, the college recruits students to interview the veterans and Minnesotan reporters to write and transcribe the interviews.

The annual event used to be hosted on the college campus, but Anoka Tech has recently taken the event off-site.

“The past couple of years we have taken our team to an assisted living home so we can interview World War II and Korean War veterans who are not as mobile anymore,” said Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, an NCRA Director and instructor at Anoka Tech. “Most recently, on Nov. 5, Minnesota reporters and students … joined together to help preserve history for 12 wartime veterans at Chandler Place Assisted Living in St. Anthony.” Nine of these veterans served in World War II and three served in the Korean War.

“We make our VHP event more than just interviews,” Sati continues. “We have food, music (an accordion player), decorations, and we invite veterans to return back the following years to enjoy the day and continue building friendships.”

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes.

Tom Piltoff, a court reporting student, served as an interviewer at this year’s event. “It was an extremely humbling experience to be in the presence of such great men and an honor to have been able to hear even a small chapter or two of their stories,” he said.

The participants will remember these stories for years to come. One memorable veteran is Larry Tillemans.

“He lived in a small town outside of the Twin Cities,” said Sati. “One of the students who worked as a waitress in a small café he frequented mentioned that her school hosts VHP Days. He was interested! As it turns out, Mr. Tillemans was a typist with the Third Army in Munich, Germany (1945-1946). He was assigned by the Army to type transcripts at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials and the Dachau Tribunal. Throughout the 218 days Mr. Tillemans spent in Germany, he witnessed over 350 Nazis and victims of the Holocaust give their testimony. Mr. Tillemans personally typed over 200,000 affidavits. He shares his experience with as many people as he could. He is adamant people hear actual accounts from people who were present when history was being made.”

Lake County, Ill., Veterans History Project

The Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., has hosted its annual VHP Day for the past five years on Veterans Day.

“Our VHP event would never have happened if it hadn’t been for my colleague, Vernita Allen-Williams (our current ILCRA president),” said Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, an official from Lake County, Ill., one of the event’s organizers. Allen-Williams, RMR, an official from Waukegan, Ill., is the current president for the Illinois Court Reporters Association. “[She] had read about the project and mentioned it to our then-chief judge, Fred Foreman, and, upon his retirement, support for the project was continued by our next chief judge, John Phillips, who is also a veteran,” Cohen-Rojas continued. “Both Judge Foreman and Judge Phillips are retired now, but they remain strong supporters of the project, and they both volunteered at this year’s event.” According to Cohen-Rojas, Allen-Williams and Colleen Eitermann, an official, from Deerfield, Ill., coordinated the first event and began “what has become a proud tradition at our courthouse.”

This event has grown exponentially over the past five years, from nine veterans the first year to a record 35 veterans this year, bringing their five-year total up to 134 veterans interviewed.

“The first year we did the VHP,” says Cohen-Rojas, “we put out pastries and fruit and coffee, and we had the opening ceremony in one of our courtrooms. Then, as more people participated each year, more people wanted to be involved and more ideas started to surface. The Young Marines, in addition to helping serve the veterans and their families breakfast, also help out as escorts for disabled veterans. Last year we had challenge coins made for the veterans with all of the branches of the military represented on them. We started sending the veterans packages after the interviews with copies of their interview transcripts, framed certificates, thank-you letters, and photos from the event. Representatives from organizations like the Honor Flight and the Daughters of the American Revolution got involved, as well. It has really been an honor to watch this event grow and evolve. My favorite part is hearing afterward from volunteers that the experience has changed them and that they want to volunteer again not just for the next year, but for every year after that!”

The entire community backs the annual event. The Lake County Bar Association supplies interviewers and escorts for the veterans, and contributes financially to support the event.

“State’s attorneys, public defenders, and private practitioners participate, as well as several retired judges,” adds Cohen-Rojas. “The Marines volunteer time and food for the fantastic breakfast served to the veterans and their families. The staff at the 19th Circuit café volunteer their time in helping to serve breakfast, as well.”

Of course, the event wouldn’t be complete without the court reporters.

“The court reporters are really superstars. Several of the 19th Circuit’s reporters participate, and we have freelancers and other officials who come from all over the state as well as several from other states,” said Cohen-Rojas. “I talked to at least three reporters this year who had come from so far away that they got hotel rooms and traveled in the day before the event. These reporters happily sacrifice their time off and, in the case of freelancers, personal expense to be a part of this event. I really can’t say enough about them.”

For more information on how you can interview a veteran in your community, or host your own VHP Day, visit NCRA.org/NCRF or contact NCRF’s Foundation Manager, April Weiner, aweiner@ncra.org.

Court reporting students host Veterans History Project

The Newton Daily Njcr-publications_high-resews posted an article on Nov. 11 about a Veterans History Project event held at the Des Moines Area (Iowa) Community College that was hosted by students from its court reporting program. Members from the Iowa Court Reporters Association interviewed 12 veterans during the event in honor of Veterans Day.

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Local court reporters coordinate Veterans History Project

jcr-publications_high-resThe Lake County News-Sun, Lake County, Ill., posted an article on Nov. 11 about the Veterans History Project event held in honor of Veterans Day. The event was coordinated by local court reporters Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, and Colleen Eitermann.

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NCRF showcases the profession with VHP Day at NCRA’s Annual Convention

John Domina and Ken Laforge are interviewed by NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp as Donna Urlaub transcribes

John Domina and Ken Laforge are interviewed by NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp

By April Weiner

To commemorate Purple Heart Day on Aug. 7, NCRA and its charitable arm, the National Court Reporters Foundation, hosted a Veterans History Project Day, sponsored in part by AristoCAT, at the Hilton Chicago on the last day of NCRA’s Annual Convention & Expo. Eight Purple Heart recipients from Chicago and the surrounding area gathered to share their stories, which will be preserved at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project collections.

The court reporting profession was on full display as representatives from several Chicago media outlets were on hand to witness court reporters transcribe the stories of eight Vietnam veterans: Allen Bush, John Domina, Dan Finn, Jim Furlong, Rich Hoffman, Ken Laforge, Mike Lash, and Tom Vargas. (Hoffman’s interview was taken via Skype.)

Laforge and Domina served together and shared their stories together at the event. 46 years ago, they had been injured alongside one another. Laforge sustained a brain injury, and Domina a cracked skull and two busted eardrums. These veterans weren’t heralded for their heroism and sacrifice upon their return as previous generations of soldiers had been.

“There was no welcome home; it just didn’t happen,” Domina told The Chicago Tribune. “Even your family didn’t want to hear your story. Nobody cared. It was expected that you forget what you did and get a job. It’s amazing that 50 years later people are interested.”

Vargas concurred.

“The Vietnam Vets were not treated very well when we came back and it was great to get some recognition [at this event] after all these years,” said Vargas. “I hope your organization will continue to recognize all veterans, especially the Purple Heart Recipients. Again, I want to thank you all and thank [you] for listening.”

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of more than 90,000. In 2013, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted almost 4,000 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

“Thank you for the opportunity to be a participant in this endeavor. I am amazed at what your organization is doing for the veterans and do appreciate the efforts of all that are involved,” said Bush.

Laforge and Domina were interviewed by NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp, who is the daughter of a Purple Heart recipient from World War II. Her father shared the story of his combat injury on his death bed. Hearing the veterans’ stories helps give perspective to what these courageous men and women endured.

“It makes you realize that (they have) lived through something really horrendous and done the best they can with that experience inside of them,” Hopp told The Chicago Tribune. “[My father] wanted to get it out one last time so we could understand what he had gone through.”

Perhaps wanting to avoid reliving the atrocities of war, or for the veterans being stifled by war’s stigma, many veterans have never shared their stories.

“It dawned on me that veterans don’t go out there and tell these stories,” Jim Furlong, who lost a leg in Vietnam, told The Chicago Tribune. “That’s a disservice to the people who didn’t come back. That’s a disservice to the people I’ll always remember being 20 years old. I’m their voice.”

“Many friends nominated me for the Medal of Honor, which was quite touching,” Furlong shared. “But I think overall my message that this was being done for those who can no longer speak for themselves was well received. That was my intent. I speak today for Mike Nathe, Ernie Gallatdo, Mike Simpson, Steve Whire, and so many others and not for my own ego. They are always first and foremost on my mind.”

It’s imperative to capture veterans’ histories now, as upwards of 1,000 veterans die each day.

Fellow Vietnam-era veteran, Mike Nelson, who is also NCRA’s CEO and Executive Director, underscored why preserving veterans’ stories is so important.

“Maybe we can learn from their experiences and recognize what a devastating situation war is,” Nelson told The Chicago Tribune, “and understand from their emotional perspective why there’s always a need to avoid it.”

Dan Finn, the commander of the Illinois chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, was interviewed at the event by NCRA President-elect Chris Willette. Finn lost a leg, and now has an American-flag emblazoned prosthetic in its place. On his way out, Finn spoke about the organization. Membership requires having been injured in combat, so as he told his own son, currently serving: “You don’t want to be a member.” In fact, Finn hopes that future generations won’t even have the organization as a result of no more injuries in combat. .

Until that day arrives, NCRA members will continue to record the poignant stories of America’s war veterans.

The Purple Heart can be traced back to the Badge of Military Merit, first bestowed upon a soldier on Aug. 7, 1782, by George Washington, in the form of purple silk heart to be worn over the left breast. The award was revived and renamed in 1932 in honor of what would have been Washington’s 200th birthday that year. Since then, more than 1.7 million of the medals have been awarded.

“We preserve history each day when we do our jobs as court reporters and captioners,” said NCRA President Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS, a freelance reporter from Mechanicsburg, Pa.  “Participating in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project allows us to use our skills to help honor our veterans and ensure that their stories are forever preserved for future generations,” said Wood who, along with her husband and son, interviewed veterans at the Purple Heart event.

In addition to giving a voice to these eight veterans, the VHP Day was a chance to showcase the talents of stenographic court reporters and how they use their skills to preserve history for posterity and research. The event merited significant coverage of the profession and the VHP from the following media outlets:

For more information about NCRF’s Oral History Program, visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

April Weiner is the Foundation Manager for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at aweiner@ncra.org.

 

 

World War II veteran’s stories inspire Kansas Supreme Court chief justice, also a veteran

JCR publications share buttonThe Topeka Capital Journal posted an article on July 3 about a Veterans History Project (VHP) event hosted during the Kansas Court Reporters Association’s annual convention. The article explains what the VHP is and showcases the interview of a WWII veteran conducted by the Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss, who is also a veteran.

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