Weekly Columns

Arkansas veteran Garland Gable was a member of the 69th Infantry Division during WWII. He lived through some of the toughest battles in the European Theater, seeing and experiencing the grim realities of war. 

“We relieved the 99th Infantry Division. They’d been dug in for several weeks. They looked awful,” Gable recalled of his first trip to the frontlines.  “While we were relieving them, the Germans turned loose the artillery. We had men killed before we got started.”  

His memories depict the harsh realities of war, but also underscore his selfless sacrifice and dedication. Hearing the personal accounts of veterans like Garland is an unforgettable experience. Now the Conway resident’s memories will be something future generations can hear and learn from as part of the Veterans History Project (VHP), a program of the Library of Congress that preserves the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

This project is a very healthy way for our veterans to share their memories and for families to hear about what their loved ones endured, sometimes for the very first time. As the son of a WWII waist gunner on B-17s, I didn’t hear my dad talk of his experiences during the war. I wish I had asked more about that time in his life. My office is working to make sure that other families don’t have this same regret. 

Sharing the importance of this program increases participation by veterans and the volunteers interested in recording their memories. I’m proud of the work we’re doing to encourage more Arkansans to contribute to the VHP. We’re making sure that more Arkansas veterans are part of the collection by conducting interviews and hosting workshops around the state to teach others how to join this effort. 

These events have inspired more Arkansans to capture these living histories. I’m pleased to see the enthusiasm for preserving the memories of our veterans, and I’m excited by the support of organizations around the state that are helping amplify this message.

As part of the launch of Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” documentary, Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) collaborated with my office to promote the VHP, hosting events across the state and including my staff in a recent live broadcast of “Arkansans Ask: Veterans History Project.”

The Library of Congress has recognized the work we are doing to feature this program and facilitate participation. My staff has shared our practices with other congressional offices so they can create their own programs to capture the memories of our veterans. 

VHP Director Col. (ret.) Karen Lloyd saw the support from Arkansans for this project during a weekend visit to the state earlier this fall. She met with veterans and volunteers who are champions of the project and are contributing to the library’s collection. 

Preserving the experiences of Mr. Gable and so many other veterans in our state is an honorable way to recognize their bravery and dedication to our country. As we celebrate Veterans Day, consider supporting this rewarding project and capturing the oral histories of the men and women who stand in defense of our nation.