Montana’s Veterans Tell Their Stories

One out of every 10 Montanans is a veteran, which makes Montana home to more veterans per capita than almost any other state in the nation. It is one of my greatest honors to serve Montana’s veterans in Congress.

Every one of these men and women who’ve served have an incredible story to tell from their service — stories that are also part of our nation’s history and our heritage. That’s why the Veteran’s History Project is so important.

My team in Montana is helping to spread awareness of the American Folklife Center’s Veteran’s History Project across the state in a big way. The goal is to collect and preserve the stories of all of Montana’s wartime veterans in the Library of Congress. This will ensure that researchers, teachers and future generations can hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of past wars.

Congress created the Veterans History Project in 2000 as part of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and since then, over 99,000 veteran stories have been collected nationwide.

If you are a veteran and are willing to tell your wartime story, or if you know a veteran whose story should be told, I encourage you to participate in this important project.

One of best parts of my job is meeting our veterans and learning their stories. I recently met Frank Stoltz, a WWII veteran and Honor Flight participant who had been a POW in Poland and became a member of the “Caterpillar Club” for successfully parachuting out of a disabled airplane.

On a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I met Brendan, a veteran who lost all four limbs from a roadside bomb in Iraq on Easter morning in 2009. Brendan had just undergone a double arm transplant and I had the privilege of spending time with him and shaking his hand.

America’s story of the loss of the SS Dorchester in WWII is also part of my family’s history. The sinking of the Dorchester was the single worst loss of American lives of any convoy during WWII — of the 900 men on board, only 230 survived. My great-uncle, Thomas Tarbet, was on that ship. I had the opportunity to attend a recent Honor Flight where I reconnected with Thomas’ brother and my great-uncle Russ Tarbet, who shared his own experiences serving in World War II and reflected on the service and sacrifice made by his brother and all who were aboard the SS Dorchester.

Stories like these are why efforts like the Veterans History Project are so important — capturing stories of The Greatest Generation for the next generation.

It is my hope that we can reach every veteran and make sure their stories are part of the permanent record at the Library of Congress for future generations to learn from.

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