PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia Veterans' Legacy Project unveiled its work last week.
The project has spent the last two years developing an oral history collection to preserve and protect the recollections, memories and stories of men and women who served in the military.
Because of the project, about 220 interviews have been collected over the last decade, but the bulk have occurred within the last two years, Jason Gum, archivist at Glenville State College, said.
The collection is available to interested families, students and scholars on the Glenville State campus and website.
A documentary from the project will air at 7 p.m. today on West Virginia Public Television.
"We are happy with how it has turned out and grateful for the veterans who were able to make this possible," Gum said.
Project director Bob Baber also is grateful to the project's contributors who made the concept a reality. He credited former U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, who first secured a federal grant for the project, local donors Ike and Sue Morris and Mike Ross and the late Professor Larry Sypolt of West Virginia University, who pioneered the project.
"They enabled us to capture the tip of the iceberg," Baber said. "This has been for me, this last year, has been the most exciting wonderful, honoring and humbling of my career in higher education."
He recalled meeting Frank Menendez at the Clarksburg Senior Center. Menendez told him how he never received his tank medal from World War II.
"We contacted Rockefeller's office and he got his tank medal. He was tickled pink," Baber said.
Baber also recalls interviewing Vietnam veteran Richard McCartney. During the interview the student asked McCartney if he'd ever been to the Vietnam Wall.
"'No. And I am not going,'" Baber recalled McCartney saying.
According to Baber, McCartney said he had respect and honor for all those names on the wall, but was himself suffering from complications from Agent Orange exposure.
"I am going to die from Agent Orange and what gets me is there is no room on that wall for me," Baber said he said.
McCartney, of Grantsville, died in September.
In addition to the encounters with the veterans, Baber said the students who conducted the interviews were profoundly affected by the work, including Baber's son Cody.
Baber recalled his 22-year-old son bursting into tears over the transcription of a Iraqi War veteran. The veteran, Baber said, was only six years older than his son.
"He said, 'I had no idea what these people had done.' I thought how powerful."
Baber was asked if the project will continue.
"That's a hard question to answer," he said, noting years of work lie ahead of Gum.
Years of material must still be preserved from interviews and there is a waiting list of more than 50 veterans who requested interviews to have their stories recorded and saved, Baber said. Many of those who requested interviews are World War II veterans, he said.
"If we are going to continue forward, we will have to raise more money," he said.