Veterans Day Storytelling
In honor of Veterans Day, consider holding a veteran-themed event like a storytelling initiative. This event is particularly perfect for communities with large senior populations. It’s also equally fun when advertised in advance and opened up to the surrounding greater community and older family members of your current residents. How to get started There are two ways to host a Veteran’s Day storytelling event:
- Invite an organization like StoryCorps to the property.
- Arrange your own oral history event.
**BONUS** Encourage residents to bring over parents, grandparents, and other elderly family members to share their stories. Take an oral history
Encouraging oral history-taking is a service to the community, and a national imperative.
Some organizations, like the Veterans History Project (with the Library of Congress) and StoryCorps, aim to go out into communities and collect very intimate and personal interviews. The goal is to create a massive archive of oral histories for generations to come. There are also non-profit organizations working to record stories and preserve them for generations to come.
**TIP** reach out to local libraries, veterans groups, and museums are also interested in collecting oral histories from veterans. Contact local chapters of veterans associations to make plans to collaborate.
How storytelling can help
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Some veterans and older adults may not have the vision or hand-eye coordination left to write or type their memoirs. Therefore, dictating their oral history to an avid listener, like a family member or friend, is a great way to document their experiences.
Taking an oral history and listening to elder’s stories is also a way to ask somewhat personal questions, give feedback on answers, and discuss and learn from the past. Ensure the veterans are comfortable
Be sure to have snacks, water, and comfortable places to sit for all veterans and seniors participating. You want to make sure they feel comfortable so be sure to turn on the heat (or air conditioning) to ensure an even indoor temperature.
What questions to ask?
Give residents a list of oral history starter questions like those on this list from the Grosse Point Historical Society. Have residents note down the answers. They may also want to voice record, or video record, their family members.
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There are also specific questions to ask veterans. This guide to veteran interviewing from the Veteran’s History Project is a great start. Make sure your residents look over the questions ahead of time and plan their interviews. Asking questions in stages during the interview will help bring back memories in a natural way. It will also help keep elder’s brains agile and deepen family bonds.
If you record the conversations oral histories also make a great record for their family and future generations to access as well.
If the veteran or older adult lived through an especially difficult time period, or survived a war, allowing them the extra change to talk through some of those painful experiences can also help them find closure on past events, and bring them peace of mind. However, note that questions like "have you ever killed someone", or "how many people did you kill in the war" are not appropriate. Be prepared if someone in the group asks that, and have a pre-determined response to steer the conversation back to areas that are more in tune with the goal of the event.
**TIP** Be sure to have tissues and water around to comfort the seniors should memories get emotionally challenging to recall!
Empowering the senior in your community to share their treasured memories can bring renewed purpose, connection, and closure to their life. It can also build community partnerships and renew family bonds.
There is no better way to honor the sacrifices and memory of veterans than preserving and sharing their stories. Understanding war and other difficult past events can help us shape a more just and compassionate world.