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2008-01-24

Smith delivers veterans’ oral histories to Library of Congress

By Judith Pannebaker

Last week, United States District 21 Representative Lamar Smith delivered to the Library of Congress six Veterans History Project (VHP) interviews he conducted with constituents throughout his district.

Participants talked with Smith an average of 30 minutes about their time in the service, military experiences and their life after leaving the military. The interviews will be archived as part of the VHP collection and made available to researchers and the general public.

“This project preserves past memories, enabling future generations to understand what protecting freedom means to these veterans,” Smith explained.

In August, the Congressman swung by Cowboy Capital City Hall to interview Bandera County Fire Marshal Ralph Dresser as part of the project.

As a representative of local vets, Dresser was prepared to speak primarily on their current issues and concerns. “However, in the first 30 seconds, I learned this interview was supposed to be about my life and military career. I was totally unprepared for that,” he said later.

However, with an aplomb that underscored his 30-year “and one month” career in the United States Air Force, Dresser, a retired “full bird” Colonel, immediately switched gears. He spent the next 30-plus minutes regaling Smith with eye-popping tales of his life before Bandera County - which included, among other exploits, deployment during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s and three tours of duty in Vietnam.

The VHP honors veterans and civilian workers by collecting stories of their service. Created by Congress in 2000, the VHP relies on volunteer efforts to document the oral histories of America’s veterans. Participation in this project allows veterans to contribute to the permanent Veterans History Project collections housed at the Library of Congress, one of the world’s most respected research and cultural institutions.

“I am honored to participate in this memorial collection that illustrates the sacrifices made by all veterans,” Smith noted. “I also look forward to conducting additional interviews in the future. This gives Texas veterans and volunteers a wonderful opportunity to record their past and preserve it for future,” Smith said.

According to Smith, approximately 1.6 million veterans live in Texas, with more than 75,800 of them in the 21st District, he said. In addition, over 2,800 vets currently reside in the Bandera County.

To participate in the VHP, contact Smith’s Washington, DC, Congressional office at 202-225-4236 or visit his website, http://lamarsmith.house.gov/.