Veterans Day: Giving Voice to Vets’ Stories Before it’s too Late

With Veterans Day comes a reminder that many people put their lives on the line for their country every day, and video producers have a great gift that can help the veterans tell their stories.

We video producers are gifted with a desire to tell stories, either for fun, in documentaries, or just to keep our family history alive. We have knowledge of a craft that spins and weaves stories in very interesting ways. Sometimes, though, storytelling can be difficult to begin – it's hard to come up with a good idea or find the right subject, but often we need only to look next door or in our own family for the perfect story to tell.

It's not just on Veterans Day that you can honor those who served. Through its Veteran History Project, the Library of Congress encourages you to participate with your storytelling skills to give voice to these stories – and you only need a basic skill in video production.

From the first world war to current times, many of your veterans have never told the stories of life in the service to their country. Some stories might be those they'd rather forget or acts we'd think were brave but they'd respond with "just doing my job, ma'am." Besides wars or battles, veterans also have experiences ordinary civilians might never relate to that include stories of compassion or sorrow, or more basic feelings of loneliness, hunger and fear. Few, though actually tell their family and friends what they experienced, rather feeling it's best left behind as they try to get on with their life.

Videomaker has all the tips you need for storytelling those history videos, from interviewing tips and microphone use to composition and good lighting techniques – all YOU need is a camcorder, tripod, mic and maybe a light along with the simplest of editing software.

My dad joined the U.S. Navy in 1941 and went to sea at 17 years old. Years later he regaled us with stories during his time on a tiny gunboat smack in the middle of the action. Unfortunately, although he was great at storytelling, (an Irish bard, everyone called him!), he passed away before I thought of making history videos to save for future generations.[image:blog_post:28748] I was lucky to inherit a couple small journals that he kept while sitting there at night, lonely and so far from home, but they can never replace the voice. The words speak of fear and bravery – of moments of awe and fate interrupted. They speak of missing a beloved dog back home and words of contrition for a conversation he had with his dad when he enlisted and concern that he'd never see him again.

Losing your veterans' voices loses a part of your history – and every day one more vet sits alone wondering if anyone cares, if anyone knows. But you can help the voices not only be heard but officially recorded for all time through the Library of Congress's Veterans' History Project.

You don't have to be a pro shooter, or a documentarian to tell these stories, anyone with just a camcorder and a basic knowledge of editing can learn to produce video and participate.

Troops returning from battle often suffer from post-traumatic problems and encouraging them to tell their stories can help them and also help others. Find out more on the Veterans' History Project and get ready to capture some amazing stories, before it's too late.

I challenge you to put your video production skills to work, and do what I was unable to accomplish: give a permanent voice to a veteran that will live on in history, rather than legend.

Stories without facts become myths. Fact becomes history and history becomes legend. Although November 11 is Veterans Day in the United States, it's also a reminder for video producers worldwide to consider recording their veterans' stories – before the voices can no longer be heard.

And always remember, history videos aren't just for special events or unique occurrences, every time you make a video – even if it's just your 6-year-old's birthday party, you are making history videos to save for future generations.

[image:blog_post:28745]Happy Veterans Day, dad!

UPDATE: iHistory Video Contest for Teens

[image:blog_post:35151]If you know a high schooler that loves video, he or she can win a Blackmagic pocket camera, among other prizes, for personal use or for their school by presenting a video interview to the iHistory project. Check it out – Entry deadline is November 20, 2013.

Jennifer O'Rourke is Videomaker's managing editor.

Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O'Rourke
Jennifer O’Rourke is an Emmy award-winning videographer & editor.

Related Content