For thousands of U.S. combat veterans, their stories and their first-hand accounts of history go untold to the next generation of Americans. Many of those stories were forged on the battlefield and etched forever in veterans' hearts and minds. Those stories, our nation's stories, will soon be heard and seen thanks to a new partnership with Gulf Coast and WLOX-TV.
Beginning in March, local veterans will share their stories on WLOX's nightly news. This new project will feature a veteran once a week and is scheduled to run for at least one year.
The college was contacted by WLOX and asked to be a partner in this important project because of Gulf Coast's ties to the community. Three Gulf Coast history instructors - LeeAnn Rasmussen, Jefferson Davis Campus; Buck Foster, Perkinston Campus; and Mary Ann Sison, Jackson County Campus - are arranging and conducting the interviews with veterans. WLOX's main anchor, Jeff Lawson, will then write and present their stories on air each week.
For Rasmussen, this television project is a natural extension of her work with veterans. She and her students have sponsored the Oral History Project for the last two years as a way to preserve veterans' stories on audiotape and transcripts.
"What is so exciting about this project is the television element. People from across the Coast will be able to hear what it took to make this country free and learn more about the real people behind our history. This is a worthwhile project. Each day more than 1,000 World War II veterans pass away, and we lose their view of our history," Rasmussen says.
Taping for the program begins in February, but its benefit will last far longer than an evening newscast. All of the unedited interviews are being sent to the Library of Congress as part of its efforts to document the war-time experiences of veterans. The interviews will also be used in the college's American History classes as a way for students to experience our nation's past.
Bring this history into the classroom is the most exciting element for instructor Dr. Buck Foster. He's looking forward to sharing the stories of Gulf Coast alumni who are veterans with current history classes.
"There is going to be a personal connection there, between a current student and past student. The realization that they're not that different, their goals and fears, from the veterans who sat in a college class years before them and went to war," Foster says.