Nov 11, 2002
Veteran's Day is November 11, marking a day to thank and remember both those who died in service of their country and those who fought in war and returned. For a group of Calvin College students this Veteran's Day will have an extra significance.
The students are members of English 101 classes at Calvin taught by professors Jennifer Holberg and Chip Pollard. And during this fall semester they have been conducting interviews with World War II veterans and videotaping them for permanent archiving at the Library of Congress.
Holberg hatched the idea this summer after reading about the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, an attempt to get oral histories from vets. World War II vets often have been hesitant to talk about what they did for their country, but as they age their thoughts return more and more to their experiences as soldiers. And so Holberg, Pollard and their students are giving those old soldiers and sailors a chance to talk.
The Calvin students interview the veterans several times and videotape each encounter. They also are assigned to write papers based on the interviews. Both the papers and the videos will be on file and available to others at the Library of Congress.
Students are finding the experience adds excitement to what could otherwise be a pretty standard intro English class. They've interviewed soldiers who were on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, blew up bridges over the River Kwai and had their boat sunk by Japanese pilots. Students also like the idea that their work will be available to others. But it adds a little pressure, knowing that more people than just the professor eventually will read their work!
The class is planning a December luncheon on campus at which they will present a copy of their written histories to the veterans.