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NGL's 'Call Of Duty' Shares Local Veterans' Stories With The World

May 24, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Sara Thompson

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NGL digital resource coordinator Tyler Manolovitz created SHSU's first Texas Military Veterans Oral History collection that is now available through the "Digital Collections" page. The collection features SHSU alumni and local veterans who provide first-hand accounts of their wartime experiences. Working in conjunction with the HEARTS Veterans Museum, the NGL hopes to become the best military library in Texas through resources such as this collection. —Photo by Brian Blalock

There are many stories to be found within the Helping Every American Remember Through Serving (HEARTS) Veterans Museum, both on display and within the aged faces of it’s most devoted visitors who can be found there nearly everyday.

They are former soldiers, U.S. Marines, Navy sailors and Air Force pilots, who long after their years of combat have traded their uniforms and canteens for blue jeans and warm cups of coffee.

Some can be found chatting over the news of yesterday and today, occasionally drifting into heated tales of warfare. Meanwhile, others sit quietly to themselves on one of the museum’s various benches, reading the daily newspaper or perhaps silently gazing upon the walls of medals, weapons of combat and young, faded faces of fallen comrades.

Though it is never spoken, it’s a well-known fact as to why these men and women return almost everyday. Here, each of their stories is timeless, thanks to fellow veterans and any of other museum visitors willing to lend a listening ear.

Throughout the past 18 months, Tyler Manolovitz, digital resource coordinator for Sam Houston State University’s Newton Gresham Library, has been working to share these stories with the world.

In coordination with the HEARTS Veterans Museum, Manolovitz has digitized a collection of more than 65 recordings of local military veterans recounting their lives and memories. After each video was recorded, formatted and transcribed, the interviews were permanently archived online within the Texas Military Veterans Oral Histories, accessible through the NGL’s “Digital Collections” website.

Beginning with World War II, the collection spans through over half a century of famous American battles. It features first-hand accounts from an array of male and female veterans ages 71-96 years old who speak about their childhoods, military services and post-military lives.

“The purpose of the project is to preserve the lives and memories of these veterans as well as the sacrifices they have made to our country,” Manolovitz said.

A TexTreasures Grant, in partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans Memory Project and the HEARTS Museum, funded the project, which features 37 Texas military veterans.

The grant portion of the project funded transcriptions of the videos, allowing each recording to be fully searchable online in the Newton Gresham Library’s Digital Collections, as well as global search engines, according to Manolovitz.

“Now anyone is able to see the faces of these veterans and learn their stories from their own home,” said Richie Harris, director of HEARTS Veterans Museum.

I believe it’s important to remember those before us and how their lives have paved the way for our own,” said Manolovitz.

According to Manolovitz, being able to see and hear these personal experiences in war is “both fascinating and exciting.”

Sam Houston State University itself also comes into account during a few of the veterans’ tales, as several alumni are featured veterans who speak about their times at their alma mater and its previous iteration, Sam Houston Teachers College, according to Manolovitz.

Alumni include World War II veterans Lt. Col. John T. McDaniel and Cpl. John C. Brower, as well as Capt. William C. Hearn, who served during the Vietnam War.

The list also includes several Huntsville natives whom Harris refers to as “HEARTS heroes”—veterans who frequent the museum and take part in its educational programs by speaking to local elementary students.

“You can find these men here almost everyday, reading a newspaper in one of our museum galleries or talking to us about their experiences,” Harris said. “They have truly become part of our museum’s family.”

One such “HEARTS hero” is Sgt. John Fuchs, a Purple Heart Medal recipient who was captured by German soldiers after his aircraft was shot down and spent more than eight months as a prisoner of war.

“Seeing his face, hearing his and other POWs’ experiences are especially moving,” said Manolovitz. “This collection will ensure that the memories and lives of these individuals are preserved and shared with the world.”

In addition to the digital collection, NGL faculty and staff members Glenda Griffin, Lynn McMain and Michelle Martinez are also setting up a catalog system for the museum’s library. For the first time since its opening, guests will now be able to check out the museum’s books and archives through a computer-based system.

“Both myself and fellow NGL co-workers are very proud of the projects we are doing with HEARTS,” said Manolovitz. “We look forward to continuing our assistance any way we can through future partnerships.”

Through the collection and new catalog system, the staff of SHSU’s Newton Gresham Library is helping HEARTS make great strides towards its goal of “honoring, preserving and sharing the history” of local veterans, according to Harris.

“As veterans ourselves, we are extremely proud of our museum’s progress and believe that all of the work we are doing with SHSU and the NGL staff will provide us with one of the best military libraries in Texas,” he said.

The HEARTS Museum’s origins began in the mid-90s, when a group of Huntsville residents decided make use of a collection of military memorabilia and artifacts that was originally displayed in the window of the Bluebonnet Square Antique Shop.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the collection made its way to the Huntsville Public Library. Local veterans were also called upon for the occasion, speaking about their experiences in presentations to Huntsville youth and brought along artifacts from their own collections.

According to Harris, the event was so compelling that the veterans and members of the Huntsville community decided to make the event an annual occasion. As a traveling exhibit to local elementary schools, the collection began accumulating more artifacts through the help of donations.

“By the end of the 90s, the collection became so large that it became evident to all of us that a permanent location was needed,” said Harris.

Almost a decade later, that location was found.

In 2006, the State of Texas gave Harris and his museum board a $2 million dollar grant to build the veteran’s museum on a donated plot of former Texas Department of Criminal Justice land.

Three years later, the veteran-run museum opened to the public. The grand opening ceremony was appropriately held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009.

With the help of the local veteran community, the museum has acquired several pieces of large, static displays to further enhance their collection, including an F16A Jet that was delivered May 4, 2012.

The HEARTS Veterans Museum is located at 463 State Highway 75 North in Huntsville. Museum hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The Texas Military Veteran Video Oral Histories can be accessed at Newton Gresham Library’s Digital Collections website at http://digital.library.shsu.edu.



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