Military veterans have stories to tell


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Flea market finds: military medals, photo albums, uniforms. I’m discouraged. Was there no one in the family who cared enough to carefully preserve this memorabilia or donate the items to a museum (after taking pictures)? Perhaps family members had no sense of what military service means. Maybe the person who served came home and went on about his life: Got a job, married, had children, never showed any sign that he had ever served by wearing baseball hats or T-shirts with his/her branch of service indicated on the apparel.

Why do 120 plus veterans meet the first Wednesday of each month at the Miami Valley Veterans Museum in Troy to drink coffee, hear a speaker, and share their lives with others who understand?

And why are some Vietnam War veterans meeting with me on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at noon at the museum? They know that writing their stories is a challenging task, but they understand the value.

U. S. Marine veteran Roger Jones spent 28 months in country and says, “I’ve never talked about it much, and in the last 10 years, I’ve started loosening up a little bit about it. Even when my grandkids were studying the Vietnam War in school, I just told them I really didn’t want to talk about it. Now, I want them to understand where I was and what I did.”

Stephen King, U.S. Navy, indicates, “I’d like for my family to look back and see the experiences I had. All my military records are available to examine, but unless they take the time to look through all of them, they won’t know, so I just thought it would be nice to put them in writing.” U.S. Army veteran Mel Shane and U.S. Navy veteran Nick Mott agree that they want their family members to know about their work in the Vietnam War.

One prompt from me, and the veterans begin sharing. Each story is different, but the comradery they share is evident, and the acceptance and comfort level are excellent. Their stories touch my heart and soul and merit attention and recording.

At the second meeting of this group in June, I took a copy of my mother’s brother’s military records, Major William Adams, 20 years in the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force (three inches thick) with me, so that they could examine these official records and know where to access their own from the military archives in St. Louis, Missouri. I cautioned them about going to the exact location ( and not to be led astray by those who hope to make money from their inquiries. I also indicated the information they would need to have for this simple process and told them I had recently completed it for my husband.

I have spent hours looking through Adams’ records which include everything from a telegram to his mother when he was seriously ill with pneumonia to performance review ratings to a list of awards (No opportunity for stolen valor with these records).

We met again on July 26 at noon at the museum, and area veterans who are committed to writing their stories should contact me at my college email if they want to join: [email protected]. The accounts can be of any length and in any format.

Some veterans, on the other hand, prefer to tell their stories in front of a camera, and I highly recommend the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. My Edison students and I have submitted videos of 43 area veterans. Again, email me and I will provide the contact information of the person who is doing this now in our area.

In conclusion, I have another opportunity the Miami Valley Veterans Museum in Troy has arranged, and this is for combat veterans only (We’re working on one for non-combat veterans). This program is for group talk therapy and is being conducted by Dayton Vets through the federal government. It begins at the museum on Aug. 7 at noon, but registration is required from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the museum, 2245 South County Road 25A in Troy, on July 17.

Museum board president Ted Jones says, “We are a place close to home where area veterans can access our services, connect with other veterans’ agencies, and establish relationships with other veterans. We are an all-volunteer staff, and we are committed to your welfare.”

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., teaches telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and works with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

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