May 18 is Armed Forces Day and in honor of that, some cities are staging the usual summer weekend fanfare to mark the occasion—events like parades, softball tournaments and outdoor concerts will be in effect all weekend.
While those shows of support are important for current and past soldiers to witness, there are other ways civilians can demonstrate their allegiance to the men and women of the U.S. currently serving in or returning from war.
In the last decade, 2.4 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one way to honor them—that’s not often thought of, but can be life-altering—is to simply listen to them.
StoryCorps is a nonprofit that’s collected and archived the personal tales of 90,000 Americans so far, logging them in the Library of Congress. One of its initiatives, Military Voices, records the personal stories of post-9/11 veterans, active-duty service members, and their families, giving them a much-needed moment to be seen, heard and acknowledged.
The stories are an intimate and rarely seen look at the myriad of small ways that going to war can change a person. StoryCorps regularly adds new installments to its ongoing program, but each is uniquely moving.
For instance, there’s Sergeant Marilyn Gonzalez and her daughter, Specialist Jessica Pedraza, who served in Iraq together. Upon finding out her mother was being deployed, Pedraza changed her assignment so she could accompany her. You can hear that recording below:
And there are many more, like Staff Sergeant Daniel Hodd and his mother, Evelyn discussing his choice to put off his budding pianist career in order to enlist in the Marine Corps. When he broke his finger in an accident, Hodd was told he wouldn’t be able to deploy with a broken appendage—and so he had it amputated.
No one story is identical to another, and so collectively make up a picture of what deployment feels like, looks like, and how it stays with each member of the military long after it's over. Most importantly, it lets the listener see our Armed Forces no longer as a faceless agency or extension of the government, but as a group of people, individuals worthy of care and respect.
And StoryCorps isn't done yet. Next month, from June 3—June 22, the organization will be on-site in San Diego, recording the stories of that city's veteran and military community. StoryCorps' mobile recording studio—which is housed in a silver-bullet trailer—will park itself outside the USS Midway Museum. Reservations to participate may be made on the StoryCorps website.
In addition, civilians can also contact the nonprofit to record their own true tales. Everyone needs to feel heard and while expressing your own story can be an important act of self-acceptance, listening to another's can be sign of deep respect.
StoryCorps allows anyone to record their life experience. Would you choose to do it? Tell us why or why not in the Comments.