Weekly Columns

Arkansas WWII veteran William Hargis Jr. was in his early twenties when he reported to Camp Robinson for duty. He had just finished school at Ouachita College in Arkadelphia. As an ROTC participant, he was ready to support the war efforts. The Army stationed him in England where he trained for the invasion of Normandy. Hargis was one of the thousands of Allied troops who rushed the beaches of France on D-Day. Days later he was assigned the tough position of grave reconnaissance officer, “a duty that I wished I’d never had and wouldn’t want to have again,” he said in 2003. 

His recollections, like those of so many other veterans, are truly inspirational stories of survival and heroism. You can watch Hargis describe his military service and what he remembers about the aftermath of D-Day in the interview he conducted with two students more than a decade ago. His conversation is one of thousands of veterans’ stories preserved by the Veterans History Project (VHP). 

This project is an effort by the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans so that future generations can hear directly from them to better understand the realities of war. 

These histories are compiled through audio- or video-recorded interviews, in addition to gathering original correspondence, photographs and diaries are accessible on the Library of Congress’s website at http://www.loc.gov/vets/. The opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of war from those who lived through it is unforgettable. These accounts show the reality of war and selfless dedication of our veterans. 

Since this project was approved by Congress 15 years ago, nearly 80,000 veterans have described their service. Submissions have been archived from veterans of World War I through Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. These men and women participated and witnessed some pivotal events in our nation’s history. 

Arkansans have a long and proud history of supporting our nation’s military. 

More than 250,000 veterans call Arkansas home, however only 1,000 Arkansas veterans’ stories are part of the VHP collection. I want to make sure this collection includes examples of courage, bravery and service of more Arkansans who have worn our nation’s uniform. 

That’s why I’m hosting two workshops in the state for Arkansans who are interested in capturing the history of our brave men and women. Participants will learn more about the program, receive training on how to conduct interviews with our veterans and submit those interviews to the Library of Congress. For more information on how you can participate, please call my Little Rock office at 501-372-7153. 

Sharing their experiences while serving in our nation’s uniform is important to understanding our history and the men and women who defend our freedoms.  I encourage Arkansans to get involved with collecting and sharing the stories of these heroes. Many of us have family members and friends who have served in the Armed Forces. Capturing and preserving their memories is a great way to honor their service and commitment to our country.