He remembers the exact amount of time he served in the air force in years, months and days. He also remembers his one year tour during the cold war as a weapons controller. “We identified a target and guide the plan into the target. We had the radar to do it.” He recalls Russian planes flying and coming through North of Finland.
Now, retired University of Texas-Pan American economics professor Dr. Charles J. Ellard, along with the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, is trying to keep all of those memories recorded. The idea to preserve local war stories from veterans in the Valley began at a board meeting they had last year. In October, the board vote to begin the project.
“The idea for this project is to call attention to the veterans and to recognize veteran’s services,” he said. “There are many ways of doing this, but this particular projected is to have an oral history and their time in the service.”
He said they also want to give Hispanic veterans recognition for their service. Ellard taught at The University of Texas-Pan American for 26 years and is the chairman of the library board at the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library.
The Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library board decided to partner with Library of Congress who has an ongoing Veterans History Project. To keep the project running, a total of 25 interviews must be conducted and submitted each year to the Library of Congress. Interviews of veterans who have recorded their stories are available to the public at the Library of Congress Web site.
The Veterans History Project collects preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans. Their goal is to preserve history and have future generations listen to the history of war directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. All recordings are kept at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center in Washington DC.
Since the project kicked off last November, only a few have recorded their story. Ellard says many don’t want to remember and find it difficult to speak about their time at war. Others just say they don’t think they are heroes and their stories should not be told.
“Many veterans don’t think themselves as heroes,” he said. “They said they just served their time. Many don’t think what they did was significant.” Ellard said that is one of the obstacles in getting veterans to submit an interview.
The Project collects first-hand accounts of U.S. Veterans from World War I (1914-1920), World War II (1939-1946), Korean War (1950-1955), Vietnam War (1961-1975), Persian Gulf War (1990-1995), Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present).
Ellard said accounts of U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, are also invited to share their stories with the Veterans History Project.
“We have interviewed about a dozen veterans, mostly from World War II, but also want to give recognition to all of the veterans that served in all wars,” he said.
Ellard said there are many war veterans in the Valley that he would be interested in interviewing for the project. “We had an air force base in Harlingen, as well as Moore Air Force Base in Mission, I am looking forward to meeting with them,” he said.
For more information on the Veterans History Project contact the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library at 383-6246 or Dr. Charles Ellard at 383-3565 to view veterans recount their war stories go to www.loc.gov/vets/.