Nine years ago, the American oral history project StoryCorps launched when we put a sound-proof booth in New York’s Grand Central Terminal so families could record the stories of their lives.
About a week after we opened, an elderly couple came to record an interview. The wife asked her husband about his experiences as a soldier in World War II, and as he told his story he began to weep. At the end of the interview his wife said “I’ve been married to this man for 60 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen him cry.”
Seven years later, Frank Currie, a World War II veteran suffering from terminal cancer, came with his grandson to a StoryCorps booth in Waco, Texas. We shared this excerpt of that interview with the nation to mark the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Frank Currie died later that afternoon. His grandson told us that he waited to die on Pearl Harbor day. That was his day.
Since StoryCorps opened in 2003, 90,000 Americans have participated in the non-profit project in all 50 states. It’s a simple idea: you bring anyone you choose to one of our recording facilities, sit in front of two microphones and have a 40 minute conversation with the help of a trained facilitator. At the end of the session, two CDs have been burned—one goes home with you, and the second is archived in the Library of Congress.
While StoryCorps seeks to celebrate the stories of all Americans, over the last nine years we’ve also launched a series of major National Initiatives focusing on specific groups whose lives we hope to honor. The first Initiative we ever launched, in partnership with the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum, gives every family member who lost a loved one on 9/11 the opportunity to leave a record of their lives. Here is an animation of one of those stories.
StoryCorps has recorded thousands of stories of veterans over the past nine years (walking in the footsteps of the magnificent Veterans Oral History Project at the Library of Congress), but many of these interviews have focused on World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As we thought about which American voices most needed to be heard, there was no question that it was those of 2.5 million men and women who’ve served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 11 years.
This Veterans day we’re excited to launch StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative (MVI), which will honor the stories of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, and their families. It’s our privilege to give those who have served this country the chance to talk about their lives and experiences on their own terms, and to preserve their stories for history.
Here is the first MVI broadcast, Army Specialist Justin Clyburn tells his wife about a friendship he struck up with two Iraqi boys.
Over the coming years StoryCorps MVI will be recording on military bases and in USO centers, veterans service centers, hospitals and homes.
We hope this Initiative will prove meaningful to participants, and move the needle just a bit on helping the 99% of the nation that hasn’t served in these conflicts a better understand of the sacrifices those in uniform and their families have made over the past 11 years
Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps. StoryCorps MVI is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Boeing. National partners include the Veterans Oral History Project, IAVA and NPR.