Student Veterans Participate in Oral History Project

photo of veteran taping interview

Eastern Kentucky University student veterans are adding their stories to the “From Combat to Kentucky” oral history project at the Louis B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky.

“From Combat to Kentucky” (C2KY) is an ongoing project that documents Kentucky’s student veterans and their individual experiences during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Interviews focus on each veteran’s military experience as well as their transition back into civilian life, particularly into higher education. Initial interviews were conducted with veterans attending the University of Kentucky, but the project includes veterans at all of Kentucky’s higher educational institutions.’

The stories of approximately a dozen EKU student combat veterans have been recorded to date and will be added to the C2KY website at www.nunncenter.org/c2ky. The EKU interviews were also conducted by veterans.

“It is important for veterans to tell their stories,” explained Travis Martin, editor of “The Journal of Military Experience,” published at EKU. “It is even more important for veterans to learn that society wants to hear those stories. The need to share that I felt, and the compulsion to share that I suspect my fellow veterans felt, overshadowed and defeated our anxiety about the act of disclosure.

“For us, taking part in the oral history project was a small victory that helped us relate our past to our present and our present to a future where we will be included and accepted back into normal society,” said Martin, who graduated from EKU in May and is now working on a doctoral degree at UK. “For me, the oral history project and the help of the staff and the media department at EKU reinforced and helped to usher in that new future.”

So strong is Martin’s conviction of the project’s benefits that he has spearheaded an effort to record oral histories from veterans of other wars, which will be added to other areas of the Nunn Center.

The first portion of that project will kick off in September, when the stories of veterans living in the St. Andrews retirement community in Richmond will be recorded and followed by a release party for the participants, fellow residents, friends and families.

Last year, EKU earned a national No. 1 ranking from Military Times EDGE magazine for its commitment to helping military veterans further their education. Only one other institution in Kentucky cracked the top-100 list. For the past two years, Eastern has been recognized as a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine.

In 2010, Eastern launched Operation Veteran Success, a series of initiatives designed to make Eastern an even more veteran-helpful campus. Eastern has extended in-state tuition rates to all out-of-state veterans who have completed 36 months of active federal service. Also, the University has waived the $30 admission application fee for all veterans, added recreational programming that appeals to their adventurous nature, developed a veterans-only orientation course, established a mentoring program pairing freshman veterans with returning student veterans, instituted special cohort classes where veterans can learn together with fellow veterans, and granted veterans priority during class registration to help them arrange schedules around VA appointments.

Beginning this fall, the newly approved Veterans Studies Program will offer education and training to those interested in understanding military culture and individual service members.

Published on August 24, 2011