UW-Green Bay students and veterans Ashley Wiles and Sean Gleason have important stories to share. In this case, they are not their own, but the personal, front-line accounts from veterans who served in the United States armed forces in times of conflict. These oral histories provide a personal narrative to future generations so that all can understand the sacrifices made and the realities of war throughout the generations.
The UWGB project originated in UWGB Professor Rebecca Meacham’s “Documenting Memory” class in consultation with University archivist Deb Anderson. While some students chose to work on the personal histories of elderly palliative care patients, for instance, Wiles and Gleason gravitated toward documenting the oral histories of veterans.
“They have been a part of history and their history is important,” said Gleason. “I want to encourage people to come out and share what they experienced, and I want them to know that it is for the benefit of everyone: historians, researchers, students, other family members, and other service members.”
Anderson’s help was crucial to the process, according to Gleason.
“Her knowledge and expertise really expanded the pool of knowledge that went into the Documenting Memory,” explained Gleason. “Deb also has impeccable networking skills and was able to help coordinate a large number of the interviews, and make contact with the narrators. She is responsible for the legal archival aspect that goes on behind the scenes, such as cataloging and storing the interviews, drafting and storing the release forms. She helped provide instruction on recording and transcribing interviews. She also coached and mentored students on how to best approach a variety of situations in the field.”
Gleason and Wiles hope to expand the physical and human resources to grow the project, and make it a more permanent part of UWGB culture, community and a resource that is widely accessible.