WorldWar II Veteran Charles Evans, left, with Wayne Clarke from the New York State Military Museum. Evans, 94, recently recorded the 2,000th oral history to be entered into the museum’s project.
Preserving history in the form of stories and memories of NewYork veterans is a big part of the mission of the state Military Museum inSaratoga Springs, and the program recently put its 2,000th recording to tape.
The Military Museum in Saratoga has been host to recording the histories of veterans through the New York State’s Veteran Oral History Program since 2000. The program is funded in part by the Division of Naval Affairs Operations, the National Guard and the state. The average recorded story is about an hour long, with some lasting three to four hours, and all veterans are invited to participate.
Mike Aikey, director of the museum and professional military historian, has been working on gathering the histories along with the program’s director, Wayne Clark.
“It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s amazing how many veterans are self effacing, and say that they didn’t do anything. What they’ve done is pretty remarkable, though, said Aikey. “The program took a little while to catch on and there have been ebbs and flows over the years of the program.There was a phenomenon with the WWII veterans, they weren’t interested in talking. We had more success sometimes in talking with their families.”
In listening to their stories, Aikey says that it really makes him and others put things in perspective.
“Some of them lost their sight, or an arm and went on to have very successful careers once they came back,” he said.
One of the veterans who served as a merchant marine at the ageof 17 recalled seeing a British pilot flying so low to him that the pilot waved, so he waved back.
“No longer was that veteran 80 years old, he was 17 again,” said Aikey, who said that almost all of the veterans become young again while telling their stories.