The nonprofit organization Historical Outreach Foundation has launched an ambitious program to preserve and share the stories of our nation's veterans. "The Veterans Legacies Project was born from a need to preserve the history of our WWII and Korean veterans before they are all gone," said Jonathan Sanford, executive director of the project.
"What we realized in trying to preserve these histories was that there was an opportunity to tell a larger story, the story of all of our veterans," he added. Sanford, a former aide to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on veterans' affairs and an Iraq combat veteran, realized that there wasn't a program that actively preserved and shared these incredible histories.
Sanford noted that "Our goal in starting this database was to give soldiers a chance to tell their story. We are starting to get stories and photographs now from all wars, including letters and photos from the civil war all the way up to what's happening today." Sanford said that by being able to view the histories of veterans from every time period and conflict, his thesis that every generation of Americans is a "Greatest Generation" will be proven.
Sanford said that even as the database gets going, incredible never-before-seen images are already showing up. "We had the widow of a veteran reach out to us with over 5,000 photos and slides of her late husband who served in the ETO and PTO during WWII. Some of the slides are color and feature Omaha Beach a few weeks after D-Day." Sanford added that these slides had never before been seen by the public. "The crazy part is that she offered them to several museums who then declined them."
Sanford went on to describe over 800 Marine Corp aviation photos from the 1920's that were rescued from a dumpster, gun camera footage that was stored in a freezer for over 50 years of the only known shoot-down of a German ME 262 at altitude by a P-47, and hours of tapes that depicted the battle of Najaf and still had Iraqi sand in their cases.
"We are doing this because not only is it important to preserve and share these histories for future generations, but because I can you tell you first hand that sharing these stories promotes healing and understanding for our veterans. I have so many friends who served, and it's important to me that what they did will never be forgotten. This is our chance to make it right."
To start preserving history or donate, visit the Veterans Legacies website at www.veteranslegacies.com