Students Become Keepers of the Tales
Six years ago Molly Coriett was an eighth-grader in Shannon Shelton’s social studies class at Cimarron Middle School. It was during that class when several students decided to participate in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. Now, as a sophomore studying biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa, the experience is still one of her proudest.
“The whole experience was bigger than ourselves, and my classmates and I felt really honored to be able to help document a veteran's story in the Library of Congress. There, our Veteran’s experiences will outlive all of us, and their incredible stories will be preserved for generations to come,” says Molly.
The Veterans History Project allows groups of people the ability to capture the stories of Veterans and their time served. If projects are completed correctly and all the regulations are followed, those items get inducted into the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
“It is quite a process. You have to meet many different requirements. You have to meet digital requirements and length requirements and all of those things, it’s a big process,” says Shannon Shelton, an eighth-grade social studies teacher.
For Shannon Shelton, the Veterans History Project is one very near to her heart. When she was in college she attended a Marine Corps reunion to honor her grandfather who served in World War II. At the reunion a Marine Corp Captain deemed Shannon the “Keeper of the Tale” after she listed to story after story of their times in war. He told her further, without people like you the stories die with us. So Shannon has worked hard to make sure the history and its stories stay alive.
The idea behind the interview project started years ago shortly after Cimarron Middle School opened and started their own Veterans Day Ceremony. After seeing large numbers of veterans attending the event they decided to reach out and start sharing the heroic efforts and stories of those who served our country.
“The really cool thing is our students have given a gift to these families. We provide disks to everyone in the family. One of the families watched their disk on Father’s Day. Now everyone in his family; kids, grandchildren, even his great grandchildren will get the opportunity to hear his stories and pass them on from generation to generation. So it’s a beautiful thing to give someone and their families,” says Shannon.
To date, Cimarron students have had two different interviews inducted into the Library of Congress. The first was Corporal Larry Boyd, who also happens to be Shannon’s father. Corporal Boyd served with the Marine Corps from 1961 to 1975 and fought in the Vietnam War. The second was Corporal Thomas Hanson who served in the Army from 1939 to 1945 and fought in World War II. Cimarron is currently waiting to hear if its most recent submission was selected.
For many of the students who participated in the interview projects it quickly became a passion project and students found time throughout their day to complete the interviews and make sure everything was submitted correctly.
“Our group had four eighth-grade members and we worked closely with Mrs. Shelton during the whole process. We met throughout the school year during lunches and after school to assign roles, create interview questions, ensure that we were adhering to the guidelines the Library of Congress laid out, and prepare for the interview. During the actual interview, we let Mr. Boyd lead. We asked our prepared questions to help guide his answers, but as the interview progressed, one story would remind him of another and he laid out his experiences beautifully for us as we listened,” says Molly.
Shannon says it takes about six months to hear back from the Library of Congress if a project is selected. When they found out for the first she says it was over Thanksgiving break and she immediately reached out to her students and shared the exciting news.
“When we heard the interview was selected to go into the Library of Congress, we couldn't have been more excited. My classmates and I were very humbled to be involved with the project, but mainly we were excited for Mr. Boyd and Mrs. Shelton. Mr. Boyd has an incredible, unique story to share with the world, and it is a great feeling to know that his story will be preserved and remembered far into the future. Mrs. Shelton worked tirelessly to make this project a reality; I have never met someone so passionate about our country and its rich history, so it was great to see her dream for the project come true,” said Molly.
For Molly, it too was a day she won’t ever forget.
“Interviewing Larry Boyd was an incredibly humbling experience for me. As an eighth grader, I had a general understanding of war and the basic duties of the US military and its members. However, hearing Mr. Boyd recount his experiences firsthand was completely eye-opening,” Molly continues; “the emotion was very tangible. We smiled with Mr. Boyd as he shared fond memories of his past, and cried with him as he recounted the heavy burden of losing his friends and fellow-military members.”
With projects like the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, students like the ones at Cimarron Middle School get the chance to become part of history and help tell the stories that might otherwise disappear forever.
You can view each of the interviews by clicking on the links.
Corporal Thomas Hanson
You can also see more projects by visiting the Veterans History Project.