The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

May 26, 2013

Finding the forgotten

Korean War vets share stories with students


DANVILLE — The Korean War will no longer be the “forgotten war” — not if a group of Danville Area Community College students and the Danville Public Library staff have their way.

The seven students in Jon Spors’ Journalism 110 class — Introduction to Television Production — spent hours interviewing six Korean War veterans and then editing the tapes. A condensed version of those interviews will be shown June 10 at the public library, along with a panel discussion.

Also, a traveling exhibit, “Living Through the Forgotten War: Portrait of Korea,” produced by The Korea Society in New York, will be on display from June 1 to July 15 on the public library’s second floor. There will be 39 photos featured.

The collaborative project between DACC and the library is tied to the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, June 1950 to July 1953. The war began when North Korean forces invaded South Korea; the United Nations, including the United States, came to the aid of South Korea, while China helped the Communist North.

It’s known as the “forgotten war” because it followed so quickly upon the heels of World War II, and then, it was overshadowed by the Vietnam War.

The students in Spors’ class all said they gained a new appreciation for the veterans after conducting the interviews. Many were not familiar with the war, except what they might have learned in high school.

“I learned they did a great deed and went through a lot of hardships over there,” said D’Andre Day of Danville, a sophomore. “They had great stories.”

Bryant Burris of Georgetown was intrigued with the men’s tales of firing the cannons on the battleships, and what that entailed.

Mercedes Nixon-Palmer of Danville was amazed at how little people knew about the war and veterans’ efforts at the time. “When they came back, people didn’t know they had even been gone,” she said.

Like the others, Emily Cannon and Ashlie Fleming, both of Georgetown, were interested in hearing the men’s stories.

“I learned a lot,” Cannon said. “All had different stories.”

Day said he already had an appreciation for veterans, as his parents served in the Army in Germany, a cousin is a veteran and his grandfather served in the Vietnam War. Still, the stories reinforced that appreciation.

Day and others also said they learned a lot about how to interview and produce the film. “It takes patience and a lot of work after the interviews,” Day said.

Many of the students want to pursue a career in communications, especially television. Other students who worked on the project were Margie Denman and Ebony Bullock.

“This was a good project,” Spors said. Not only did the students learn from the veterans, but they gained skills in interviewing, filming and editing.

They spent two evenings in April interviewing the veterans — representing the Navy, Army and Marines — in the DACC TV studio. They edited the three hours of interviews, looking for poignant sections, he said.

The class usually has a community service project, and this one filled the bill, Spors said.

The idea to interview Korean War vets came from Barb Nolan, director, and Leslie Boedicker with Outreach Services at the public library.

“We did this with World War II veterans about six years ago,” Boedicker said, “and we wanted to do it with Korean War vets.”

She then approached Spors about having his students interview and tape veterans, whom she selected.

Boedicker found a list of interview questions and suggestions on the secretary of state’s website. It’s all part of the Illinois Veterans History Project, which was launched by Jesse White to create a permanent record of the names and stories of Illinois war veterans and civilians so their contributions will not be forgotten.

The students asked basic questions — rank, branch of service, biographical details, etc. — and then asked for details of the vets’ trips abroad, any action witnessed or duties away from the front line, friendships formed, off-duty recreation and any emotions relating to combat. Upon vets’ return home, the students wanted to know how they were greeted by family and the community, how they readjusted to civilian life, how war affected their lives, and other questions.

“It’s very good student caliber,” Boedicker said of the project. “I’m thrilled with that.”

Some of those interviews will be submitted to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, Boedicker said.

After all of the interviews were done, the students were supposed to choose 3-5 minutes from each. That finished project — about a half hour long — will be shown June 10 at the library, followed by a panel discussion with the six veterans.

Boedicker also has invited Korean War veterans to show up, as well as any community members. People are invited to attend that program, and also view the art exhibit upstairs.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “We try to get multiple artistic venues to work together.”

History project

Anyone may participate in the Illinois State Library’s Veterans History Project by going to the website or visiting a driver services facility and obtaining a Patriots Information Form.

Veterans or their families can complete the form and share their remembrances on the back or on a separate piece of paper. Those who participate will receive a certificate of appreciation.

Participants also may submit an oral recorded history.

The Illinois Veterans History Project was created after Congress passed a law in 2000 authorizing the Library of Congress to collect and preserve histories of veterans and civilians who served in wars from World War I to present.