Lake County officials are inviting veterans and active civilians to share oral histories of their experiences to be included in an archive at the Library of Congress.
The Veterans History Project will get underway the morning of Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, where court reporters will take transcripts of their interviews.
The Library of Congress sponsored project collects first-hand accounts of veterans from World War II (1939-1946), the Korean War (1950-1955), the Vietnam War (1961-1975), the Persian Gulf War (1990-1995) and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present), as well as personal items such as photographs, diaries, letters, etc. of the veterans, if they so choose.
Civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (war industry workers, such as “Rosie the Riveter,” USO workers, civilian flight instructors and pilots, medical personnel, etc.) are also invited to share their valuable stories.
Carol Cord, a member of the Court’s Administration Office who can be reached at (847) 377-3771, will be the main contact for this effort. She is the mother of two war veterans of the recent conflicts in the Middle East. She will be coordinating the volunteers, the veterans and courthouse personnel. Any veteran interested in being interviewed or anyone interested in volunteering to assist in this project should contact Cord by Oct. 1.
The program will also use volunteers from the Office of the State’s Attorney, the Public Defender’s Office and members of the Lake County Bar Association to conduct the oral interviews of the war veterans and the civilians that supported the war effort. Judge Fred Foreman is seeking volunteers from each group to assist in this important effort.
Foreman, an Air Force veteran, said, “Northern Illinois is the home to hundreds of thousands of war veterans and those civilians that helped them. As time goes on, more and more war veterans pass away and the details of their experiences and those of their comrades are lost to the American people. War veterans are often hesitant to talk about their own experiences because of a sense of humility but they are often the last witnesses to the sacrifice and bravery of others who did not survive the war or have since passed. The events they witnessed firsthand and their memories of their comrades in arms need to be preserved.”
Court reporter Vernita Allen-Williams along with Colleen Eitermann will be coordinating the court reporters’ support of this important project. “The official court reporters covering Lake County’s second Veterans History Project event are again very excited to be a part of this effort. The first-hand accounts will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for use by researchers and to serve as an inspiration for generations to come, making accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war,” Allen-Williams said.
The following judges who are veterans, John Phillips (USAF), Michael Betar (USMC), Michael Fusz (USN) and John Scully (USN) will be contacting veteran organizations and individual veterans in Northern Illinois to advise them of the project and to seek their help in contacting other war veterans and civilians that aided in the war efforts. They will also be recruiting Lake County lawyers, assistant state’s attorneys and assistant public defenders to interview the war veterans and civilians.
Lake County’s first participation in this program in October of 2012 was a moving and inspirational experience for all who attended. It is anticipated the Lake County program will become an annual event.