TRAVERSE CITY — John Block didn’t hesitate to sign up when learned a group of third graders wanted to interview military veterans as part of a Library of Congress effort to preserve veterans’ stories.
“I like to help out where I can with veteran issues,” said Block, a Vietnam veteran from Traverse City who is involved in a number of veteran programs.
Block was to be one of 16 to 20 veterans to sit with teams of three students from Eastern Elementary School in Traverse City to discuss what it was like to serve the country in the armed forces.
Veterans were to be videotaped, and tapes and transcripts will become part of the permanent national Veteran’s History Project collection.
“I think the Veteran’s History Project is really neat and I think it will be fun to talk to the kids,” said Block, who said he found it challenging to come home after serving in the controversial and contentious war in Vietnam.
“The Vietnam war was a very unpopular war and the first thing I did when I got home was get my uniform off,” he said.
Years later Block went on to enlist as a reservist with the Coast Guard before he retired.
The event is part of Eastern’s Heroes in our Community service-learning project designed to teach students about social issues and civic responsibility.
Interviews took place last week. Each veteran will receive a copy of their interview. The interviews will air on UpNorthTV.
Susan McQuaid, the director of Volunteer Center at the United Way of Northwest Michigan, helped prepare interviewers by teaching them basics, from the different branches of the military to interviewing techniques and what questions to ask.
“We talk about how to make eye contact, how to run a camera and important questions like where were you born, why did you enter the service,” said McQuaid.
Jen Detmers coordinates Eastern’s Heroes in our Community project, now in its third year. She said interviewing veterans is an experience that the students can’t get anywhere else.
“They’re hearing first-hand what the veterans have been through from real life people who have served our country. You can’t get that from a book or movie,” she said.
Students talked with veterans from World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Detmers said the ultimate goal is for the veterans to know that they are remembered and respected.