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WWII Veterans in Southwest Missouri are encouraged to take part in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Service men and women who served in WWII can schedule video taped sessions at several locations in the 7th Congressional District.
Locally, the project is coordinated by Congressman Roy Blunt and the SMSU Veterans Recognition Committee. Mike Smith has the story:
Springfield, Missouri -- Southwest Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt interviewed World War II veteran Max DeForest to inaugurate the Veterans History Project in Springfield. With support from the Veterans Recognition Committee at Southwest Missouri State University that will undertake most of the future interviews, Blunt sat down with DeForest at the Library Center Thursday for a 90-minute video taped recording of his recollections of his time in Europe as an Army infantryman.
"It is important we preserve the experiences and memories of the men and women whose sacrifice and dedication were decisive in World War II," Blunt said. "Most of the veterans from that era are past age 80. Today's young people only know of the war on terrorism; they have no connection to the world at war in 1941-1945 and the overwhelming effort it took to preserve victory from the forces of oppression and aggression. We are fighting for much the same causes today, but against a new enemy."
DeForest was a decorated World War II veteran who was in combat in 1945 as Allied Forces crossed the Rhine River into Germany. His last day of combat saw him "playing dead" while under fire from German tanks and machine guns. He suffered shrapnel wounds and received the Purple Heart.
Blunt said, "I expected this to be an emotional experience for Max and myself and it was. Like Max, our veterans have inspiring, gripping and sometimes riveting stories to tell about their sacrifice and experiences. The Veterans History Project is designed to capture those memories where future generations of Americans can learn what it takes to keep our nation free."
Interviews for the Veterans History Project can be scheduled in Springfield, Joplin or Branson by calling 1-888-889-3535. The call is toll free. A mobile team is also available to those veterans who cannot travel.
In Springfield, the Springfield-Greene County Library system is providing space for Veterans History interviews on most Saturdays at its Library Station (2535 North Kansas) and the Library Center (4653 South Campbell). The Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks (2305 East Kearney) is also providing space on most Saturdays.
Retired Missouri Southern State University history professor Robert Markman and senior history major Dylan Welker started a second year of interviewing veterans from the Joplin area Thursday. "We have a backlog of more than 60 veterans to interview," Dr. Markman said.
Congressman Blunt interviewed Army Private First Class William Holden of Webb City Thursday at Missouri Southern State University. Holden served in the Army's 81st Division that saw action during the invasion of the Palau Islands, the Philippines, and New Guinea in the South Pacific. Holden saw combat that claimed the lives of fellow soldiers.
The Branson Veterans Task Force, the most experience organization in veteran's history interviews, has an on-going program that is several years old. The Branson Veterans Task Force has conducted several hundred interviews of veterans during the last three years, many of them while veterans attended reunions of military units.