Bien Hecho: Working To Remember Latino Veterans

I recently joined the staff of the VOCES Oral History Project, which illustrates the experiences of Latino veterans and their families. I came aboard glowing with a passion for military history, a deep admiration for all veterans, and a determination to celebrate Latinos and Latinas no American generation should ever forget. Earlier this year, after several tours of its website and after some conversations with its creator and manager, University of Texas journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, I thought I had properly appreciated the rich, emotional power of this magnificent project.

Now, after several weeks of viewing it all from the inside, reading the moving stories Rivas-Rodriguez and her staff have collected (and continue to collect), thumbing through the books and newsletters they’ve published, and staring into the eyes of the young faces in thousands of photographs from veterans’ families, I am still speechless. Thanks to the efforts of a tireless staff, to the ambition and vision of Rivas-Rodriguez, and to determined Latinos everywhere who refuse to be forgotten by U.S. history, the project is a fabulous first-class archive and an unstoppable academic force.

The project was launched in 1999, and, as the website introduction explains, it “focused solely on the WWII generation until 2010.” Since then, the project has expanded its range to include Latinos and Latinas of the Korean War and Vietnam War eras.

Profiles focus on both veterans and civilians, their individual histories, their struggles and triumphs, and their experiences in both wartime and peacetime. Rivas-Rodriguez regularly leads teams of videographers and interviewers to all parts of the United States to gather oral histories, collect historical documents and meet veterans and their families. The profile pieces, based on the interviews and other primary documents, are published in print or online, forever enshrining a unique Latino experience in American history with the prominence, elegance and respect it has always deserved. Hundreds of stories have been collected, with no end in sight. The project will not stop until every voice has been heard.

For more information on how to help or to nominate a veteran for interview, visit the website or contact the VOCES staff. In the coming months, I’ll share some of my favorite stories and videos with you.

Our weekly segment, “Bien Hecho,” highlights the good deeds and achievements of Latinos across the U.S. If you feel that someone you know is deserving of recognition, let us know at tips@newstaco.com.

Fernando Ortiz Jr. is a writer who lives in San Antonio. You can read more of his work on his website Stillness of Heart or follow him on Twitter @remembrance

[Screenshot courtesy Voces]

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