JWV Speaker Tells How Students Interview Veterans for the Library of Congress

JWV veteran Gabe Forsberg proudly signs her story for student Austin Stasik at the VHP Community Reception and Book Signing event.

Nancy Stutman

Speaker Hannah Nichols, project coordinator for Veterans Heritage Program (VHP), will explain how students are connected to veterans to honor them, preserve America’s heritage, and develop future leaders.

The Jewish War Veterans (JWV) meeting will be held on Sunday, May 19, in the Poolside building at Oakwood Country Club, 24218 S. Oakwood Blvd. in Sun Lakes. A Meet & Greet with free lox and bagels, coffee, and doughnuts starts at 9:30 a.m. The speaker follows at 10 a.m. All are welcome.

VHP facilitates an afterschool program in 30 local schools with dedicated teacher advisors. Veterans’ first-person accounts of their history are preserved as students conduct recorded interviews, which are sent to the Library of Congress. The student then writes the veteran’s story for publication in the annual book Since You Asked. The book includes war and peacetime service stories from veterans of all eras or service branches.

Ms. Nichols explains the process: “Our students have questions for the veterans and are excited to listen and learn. Veterans share that they feel honored and appreciated in the interview process. Twenty percent of our veterans are opening up to share their story for the first time ever. Many report that the emotional processing of their service story, its meaning and significance, and the impact on their life and career is cathartic and therapeutic.”

Post 619 member Gabe Forsberg was interviewed for the 2023 volume of Since You Asked by Cactus Shadows High School student Cole Diefenderfer. The student shared, “I learned a lot from my veteran, including community service, which was a major part of her service. I am incorporating service into my life and wish to expand my efforts as I get older.”

Nickey Page, 12th grade English teacher at Payson High School, confirms, “This program means so much more than what you think it will when you start out. The impact it has on the students and the veterans is something that will stay with you forever.”

Ms. Nichols notes, “The culmination of our program is the annual Community Reception and Book Signing where you witness the pride of our students and veterans and the bonds they have formed. Generations are bridged, and students develop a deeper understanding of service, sacrifice, and citizenship.”

Veterans attending the JWV meeting will have an opportunity to sign up to be added to the VHP interview waiting list. Others may go to their website www.veteransheritage.org/veterans to complete an online form. Interviews are typically conducted in the fall.

JWV Post 619, which meets the third Sunday of every month from September to June, boasts members who represent a wide range of religious affiliations and participate in philanthropic activities to help veterans of all faiths. Volunteers are especially needed in May for JWV’s Memorial Day Poppy Campaign at Fry’s Food Stores and Mesa Market Place. To learn more about JWV activities and membership, contact Elliott Reiss at [email protected] or 480-802-3281.