The Veterans History Project is a safe space for veterans to tell their military stories and have them recorded for generations to come. The Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum is one of just a handful of organizations in the country with a dedicated studio for the interviews that ultimately end up on the Library of Congress.
“Once our older veterans are gone, their memories go with them,” said Pete Bayer, the Veterans History Project Coordinator for the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum.
Those recollections are what the Veterans History Project and Bayer aim to preserve. 98-year-old Jesse Arney of Oceano is a WWII veteran and was part of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He shared his story.
“It was pretty hard to get me to talk for a long time. In fact, I didn’t do any talking at all until I took the Honor Flight,” said Arney. “It feels more lifelike than reading it. You can read all kinds of books, and maybe they’re true and maybe they’re not true, but what I’m telling you is true.”
But Arney is part of a small percentage.
“A lot of veterans are hesitant to talk about it,” said Bayer.
“It’s very important to pass that story on. So many people don’t,” said Vietnam Veteran, Tim Haley.
Haley shared his story, but many veterans haven’t, and still don’t, talk about their experiences while in the military, especially those that were in combat.
“Getting it out there relieves your soul of some of that angst,” said Haley.
“When we came back, everybody was saying, ‘Don’t talk about it. Don’t wear your uniform.’ So we didn’t,” said Bart Topham, the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum President and a Vietnam Veteran. “This, for a lot of people, is cathartic. It’s important to share this part of your life.”
The Veterans History Project is a no-pressure interview; any question veterans don’t feel comfortable answering, they’ll head to the next.
“We’re not into prying information out of people. If they’re hesitant to talk about a specific thing, we won’t talk about it,” said Bayer. “We’ll sit down and talk first. I’ll explain the process to them. In this room or if they’re unable to, I’ll go to them and record it.”
“Only a solider knows the true horror of being at war. We want to memorialize and honor those that have gone before,” said Haley. “You deserve to be proud of what you did and share it. Sharing is caring.”
If you or a veteran you know would like to tell their story, contact the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum.
Both the museum and the Veterans History Project are funded on donations. If you would like to donate, click HERE.