By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have made great sacrifices across the globe to secure freedom for not only Americans, but many their allies as well. When they come home after service, however, many choose not to talk about their experiences, hoping to forget what for many was a very traumatic experience. The Newkirk Go-Getters 4-H Club is working to change that, inviting Newkirk veterans from all branches of the military to be interviewed and share their stories on film, preserving forever the cost of freedom for the younger generation.
The interviews are being conducted at the Newkirk Public Library in conjunction with the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame (OMHF). It is a program created by Stillwater, Okla. resident Doug Dollar, who also is a member of the OMHF.
“I felt we needed something to recognize our veterans,” he said. “This is a pilot program, so we’re hoping we’ll see it popping up across the state in different communities, to help young people recognize the veterans.”
Although several organizations expressed interest in the program, it was the Go-Getters 4-H Club that got it off and running,
The students began interviewing veterans in April, and were still working at the Newkirk Public Library in August, asking questions about their service experience. They originally had an estimated number of veterans in the 30s, but it wasn’t long before they realized that number was much higher.
“When we started this, I thought we had 37 veterans. I was totally wrong,” said Karen Dye, who has been a part of the program from the beginning.
Dye makes the initial contact, but it is fully on the students to conduct the interviews, which offer the kids a learning experience of its own.
“Not only are these students learning (the veterans’) life stories, they’re learning how to do interviews, how to make eye contact,” Dye said.
As much as the students learn in the program, it is always about the veterans themselves, a chance for them to share their stories while they still can.
“All the veterans have been very good about being interviewed. Part of the reason, I think, is the students. It’s 4-H,” Dye said.
However, some have declined to be interviewed, as it was a time they may rather forget.
“It was a particularly bad time in life that they choose not to remember,” Dye said.
The students are too young for service, but are learning much about freedom and sacrifice in ways they never imagined, and see the program as an important step in preserving the past.
“I think it is important for people to hear the stories, and not think it was the same as movies,” said Allison Schneeberger. “It makes you respect our country because you don’t know how good we have it until we hear their stories.”
They also believe the younger generations should listen to the stories to know the history and sacrifices.
“I think a lot of the younger generations need to hear the stories of those who fought for freedom, and it’s an important part of preserving our history through the military, especially Newkirk’s military veterans,” said Hannah Cross.
While the project is solely in Newkirk, Ponca City veterans are also taking part in a similar program.
“The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post number 1201 has realized that the stories the veterans have are being lost, because we’re losing our veterans, due to age, etc., and they are helping them to get their stories recorded,” said Neva Lockwood, who has been a part of the program as an adult sponsor. “It’s not in conjunction with us; in fact, they didn’t even know about (our) project, so hopefully every town will follow.”
The veterans will be honored during a special ceremony at Newkirk High School on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, which will include an award recognizing their service. Along with a copy of the program. The Newkirk public Library also will have copies for the public to hear, and they will also be published on the OMHF’s Web site, www.okmhf.org.
“Family members want to get copies of the interviews, and not just Newkirk, all over the country,” Dollar said. “In a way, it’s working out better than what we were thinking. We’re hoping it will work out this way in communities across Oklahoma.”
As for the students, they hope to interview as many veterans as possible, and that others take part in similar programs.
“It’s made me realize there were a lot of people that went through a lot so we could be here today, free,” Cross said. “They sacrificed so much. Each and every one of them made a difference.”