James Rada, Jr.
It is estimated that more than 1,100 World War II Veterans die each day. The United States and Frederick County is quickly losing its “greatest generation.”
The Frederick County Veterans History Project is working to make sure those important histories are not lost. Working with the Library of Congress, these county volunteers have set out to record interviews on DVD with every Veteran they can find in the county. Their primary focus is WWII Veterans, but they are also interviewing any Veteran who is willing to share his or her story.
“We interview any Veteran,” said Priscilla Rall, director of the Frederick County Veterans History Project. “It doesn’t matter whether they were stateside, in the Cold War, anywhere.”
The group of volunteers was founded in April 2003 and, at this time, has interviewed more than three hundred twenty-five of Frederick County’s Veterans. Members currently meet bi-monthly in Rall’s Rocky Ridge home.
While there are committees with other organizations, such as the DAR, that also conduct interviews, Rall said, “To my knowledge, we are the only organization formed in the country just to do Veterans History Project interviews.”
The National Veterans History Project was formed in 2000 as part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. The goal of the project is to collect, preserve, and make accessible as many personal accounts from Veterans as possible so that their first-hand knowledge is available to future generations.
Rall, who has conducted more than one hundred interviews, said that her most-interesting interview was when she sat down with Howard Baugh, who flew one hundred thirty-five missions with the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military pilots in the armed forces.
“The white corps had a limit on the number of missions they would fly before they went home,” Rall said. “The Tuskegee Airmen didn’t have a limit and so they flew a lot of missions.”
Rall said that she was also very impressed with the Veterans who fought in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
The Frederick County group is always looking for the names of Veterans who are willing to share their stories. A volunteer will schedule a time to sit down with the Veteran and record the interview on a DVD. Copies of the interview are then sent to the Library of Congress’ Veteran History Project, the Maryland Room in the C. Burr Artz Library, and to the Veteran who granted the interview. A copy is also kept with the group.
“These Veterans have opened their hearts to us, usually painfully,” Rall said. “We should continue to give them our thanks and gratitude.”
The Frederick County Veterans History Project is always seeking volunteers to help conduct interviews, as well as the names of Veterans who would be willing to share their stories.
To help out, call Rall at 301-271-2868 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org