Noel Ysasi, manager of The University of Texas-Pan American's Veterans Service Center, wants to make sure the stories of those who served in the military during conflict are not lost.
That is why Ysasi has started collecting stories from veterans throughout the Rio Grande Valley to send to the Library of Congress.
The United States Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 to collect the stories of veterans who served during times of conflict to preserve the nation's history. The Library of Congress' American Folklife Center accepts audio and videotaped interviews and other items from veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as civilians who worked in supporting war efforts.
"What we're trying to do is preserve history," Ysasi said. "And the University, for quite some time, has been really trying to reach out to veterans."
From July 15-Aug. 15, Ysasi will be interviewing veterans at the University. He has already begun recording interviews at veterans' homes, nursing homes and other locations more convenient for them.
Rather than have veterans talk about the conflicts in which they were involved, Ysasi, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1996-2001, said he wants to collect the stories of what they went through emotionally and socially during that time so that the University and other institutions and organizations that serve them can help them better.
"I want to hit it from a counseling point of view," Ysasi said. "I want to know about them, what it is that made them who they are today."
Ysasi said the idea to interview veterans stemmed from a discussion he had with fellow volunteers at the University's United to Serve project in April. Students, faculty and staff cleaned the Veterans War Memorial of Texas in McAllen for the annual community service event.
He and other volunteers were discussing how the number of World War II veterans is dwindling every day. Ysasi said he decided he needed to collect stories from Valley veterans before it's too late.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there were more than 2.2 million World War II veterans alive as of Sept. 30, 2009. The country loses about 850 veterans who served in that war each day, according to the VA.
Ysasi said he decided to expand his outreach to all Valley veterans of all wars to see the differences in how veterans were treated during those conflicts.
"I want to hear the differences and understand the uniqueness of each story," he said.
Ysasi said his goal is to interview at least 120 veterans within that time frame so he can send the DVD's to the Library of Congress in October.
UTPA's Veterans Services Center opened during the 2009-2010 school year to assist students who are veterans by certifying them for education benefits, advocating for services that are necessary for veterans, developing projects to unite the University with the local community, providing counseling services specifically for veterans and promoting student involvement and excellence through the UTPA Veteran Student Organization and National Honor Society.
For more information, contact Ysasi at (956) 665-7934 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the Veterans Service Center, visit http://portal.utpa.edu/utpa_main/dess_home/veterans_home. To learn more about The Library of Congress' Veterans History Project, visit www.loc.gov/vets.