Take Note! Court reporters and captioners transcribe interviews for Veterans History Project

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyOn Feb. 10, the Library of Congress posted a blog written by April Weiner, Manager of the National Court Reporters Foundation. The blog provided insight into how court reporters and captioners are helping to preserve the stories of American war veterans.

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Illustrating the guilty: James Earl Ray, Jean Harris, Charles Manson

JCR logoThe Washington Post posted an article on May 9 about an exhibit at the Library of Congress entitled “Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration,” which showcases an array of hand-drawn courtroom scenes and explores the role of cameras in courtrooms.

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NCRF announces new initiative for veterans who are hard of hearing

hard-of-hearing-com-smBy April Weiner

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is pleased to announce a new initiative as part of its Oral Histories Program: the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project. This project aims to capture the personal experiences of veterans with hearing loss for the Veterans History Project (VHP) through the use of CART captioning.

Given the success of the recent Purple Heart VHP Day at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, NCRF staff considered how to reach other subsets of veterans for the VHP, and the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project was born.

“Since 2003, NCRF has collaborated with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project to both complete oral history interviews of our nation’s war veterans and to transcribe those interviews, providing a helpful tool for researchers,” said Karen Lloyd, director of the Veterans History Project. “The VHP is excited to learn of NCRF’s new endeavor to participate in the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project. By interviewing veterans who are hard of hearing , NCRF is reaching a group of veterans – who have been previously underserved – to tell their stories and have them preserved at the Library of Congress.”

Hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries, according to the Veterans Administration, which can be attributed to the constant exposure to high noise levels in both training and combat operations. The stats continue to worsen as weaponry has become more advanced in more recent conflicts. In fact, 60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer some form of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.

“I appreciated being able to share my dad’s Purple Heart story at our Purple Heart Day in Chicago, and as it turns out, he also suffered a partial hearing loss from a shell going off in his immediate vicinity during combat,” said Nancy Hopp, RDR, CRR, CMRS, NCRF Chair, from St. Louis, Mo. “This is a common affliction among those who have served in war zones, which is why the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project will be beneficial in ensuring that all veterans have the opportunity to share their stories for the VHP.”

At a typical VHP Day, multiple veterans are individually interviewed simultaneously while a court reporter takes the interview down live. For the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project, the process will be the same with the addition of a CART captioner to provide realtime for the veteran who is hard of hearing.

“The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is a natural convergence of our current partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and the services that court reporters and captioners provide individuals who are hard of hearing on a daily basis,” said Mike Nelson, CEO & Executive Director of NCRA and NCRF. “The written record of these veterans’ interviews not only provides a searchable database that is used for research purposes by students, archivists, and Congress, but the interviews help us get a sense of the struggles of war and the sacrifices our protectors have made to guard our freedoms. We as a nation and society are so indebted to our veterans and so grateful for their selfless service.”

NCRF will work with hearing loss and veterans organizations to recruit veterans with hearing loss to be interviewed at VHP Days hosted by NCRF, as well as those conducted by reporters across the country. One of these partner organizations is the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA).

“NCRF and ALDA have worked collaboratively for more than 25 years to provide realtime text translation (CART) for deafened adults,” said Steve Larew, president of ALDA. “Statistics have shown there might be 900,000 veterans with acquired hearing loss, and we are pleased to be part of this project that will allow them to share their stories as well as provide the opportunity for them to meet other adults and veterans with hearing loss.”

NCRF will host a kickoff event of its own during the 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 11-18, and encourages other firms and individuals to do the same.

“Caption First has provided realtime captioning to individuals with hearing loss in their work and personal lives for over 27 years. Our focus is to bring both access and dignity to persons with hearing loss. Deafness so often cuts people off, and reasonable accommodations reconnect them,” said Pat Graves, RDR, CRR, CRC, founder and president of Caption First, from Monument, Colo. “Millions of veterans have returned from war with hearing loss, which is why linking them with the skills of realtime captioners is the perfect vehicle for capturing their personal stories for the Veterans History Project. We look forward to our involvement in this worthy endeavor and encourage other CART captioners across the country to participate as well.”

While NCRF will kick off the project in February, reporters are encouraged to get involved with the VHP now, especially to honor veterans around Veterans Day.

April Weiner is NCRF’s Foundation Manager, who can be reached at aweiner@ncra.orgMore information on NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Day will be announced in upcoming NCRA publications.

NCRF showcases the profession with VHP Day at NCRA’s Annual Convention

John Domina and Ken Laforge are interviewed by NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp as Donna Urlaub transcribes

John Domina and Ken Laforge are interviewed by NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp

By April Weiner

To commemorate Purple Heart Day on Aug. 7, NCRA and its charitable arm, the National Court Reporters Foundation, hosted a Veterans History Project Day, sponsored in part by AristoCAT, at the Hilton Chicago on the last day of NCRA’s Annual Convention & Expo. Eight Purple Heart recipients from Chicago and the surrounding area gathered to share their stories, which will be preserved at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project collections.

The court reporting profession was on full display as representatives from several Chicago media outlets were on hand to witness court reporters transcribe the stories of eight Vietnam veterans: Allen Bush, John Domina, Dan Finn, Jim Furlong, Rich Hoffman, Ken Laforge, Mike Lash, and Tom Vargas. (Hoffman’s interview was taken via Skype.)

Laforge and Domina served together and shared their stories together at the event. 46 years ago, they had been injured alongside one another. Laforge sustained a brain injury, and Domina a cracked skull and two busted eardrums. These veterans weren’t heralded for their heroism and sacrifice upon their return as previous generations of soldiers had been.

“There was no welcome home; it just didn’t happen,” Domina told The Chicago Tribune. “Even your family didn’t want to hear your story. Nobody cared. It was expected that you forget what you did and get a job. It’s amazing that 50 years later people are interested.”

Vargas concurred.

“The Vietnam Vets were not treated very well when we came back and it was great to get some recognition [at this event] after all these years,” said Vargas. “I hope your organization will continue to recognize all veterans, especially the Purple Heart Recipients. Again, I want to thank you all and thank [you] for listening.”

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of more than 90,000. In 2013, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted almost 4,000 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

“Thank you for the opportunity to be a participant in this endeavor. I am amazed at what your organization is doing for the veterans and do appreciate the efforts of all that are involved,” said Bush.

Laforge and Domina were interviewed by NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp, who is the daughter of a Purple Heart recipient from World War II. Her father shared the story of his combat injury on his death bed. Hearing the veterans’ stories helps give perspective to what these courageous men and women endured.

“It makes you realize that (they have) lived through something really horrendous and done the best they can with that experience inside of them,” Hopp told The Chicago Tribune. “[My father] wanted to get it out one last time so we could understand what he had gone through.”

Perhaps wanting to avoid reliving the atrocities of war, or for the veterans being stifled by war’s stigma, many veterans have never shared their stories.

“It dawned on me that veterans don’t go out there and tell these stories,” Jim Furlong, who lost a leg in Vietnam, told The Chicago Tribune. “That’s a disservice to the people who didn’t come back. That’s a disservice to the people I’ll always remember being 20 years old. I’m their voice.”

“Many friends nominated me for the Medal of Honor, which was quite touching,” Furlong shared. “But I think overall my message that this was being done for those who can no longer speak for themselves was well received. That was my intent. I speak today for Mike Nathe, Ernie Gallatdo, Mike Simpson, Steve Whire, and so many others and not for my own ego. They are always first and foremost on my mind.”

It’s imperative to capture veterans’ histories now, as upwards of 1,000 veterans die each day.

Fellow Vietnam-era veteran, Mike Nelson, who is also NCRA’s CEO and Executive Director, underscored why preserving veterans’ stories is so important.

“Maybe we can learn from their experiences and recognize what a devastating situation war is,” Nelson told The Chicago Tribune, “and understand from their emotional perspective why there’s always a need to avoid it.”

Dan Finn, the commander of the Illinois chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, was interviewed at the event by NCRA President-elect Chris Willette. Finn lost a leg, and now has an American-flag emblazoned prosthetic in its place. On his way out, Finn spoke about the organization. Membership requires having been injured in combat, so as he told his own son, currently serving: “You don’t want to be a member.” In fact, Finn hopes that future generations won’t even have the organization as a result of no more injuries in combat. .

Until that day arrives, NCRA members will continue to record the poignant stories of America’s war veterans.

The Purple Heart can be traced back to the Badge of Military Merit, first bestowed upon a soldier on Aug. 7, 1782, by George Washington, in the form of purple silk heart to be worn over the left breast. The award was revived and renamed in 1932 in honor of what would have been Washington’s 200th birthday that year. Since then, more than 1.7 million of the medals have been awarded.

“We preserve history each day when we do our jobs as court reporters and captioners,” said NCRA President Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS, a freelance reporter from Mechanicsburg, Pa.  “Participating in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project allows us to use our skills to help honor our veterans and ensure that their stories are forever preserved for future generations,” said Wood who, along with her husband and son, interviewed veterans at the Purple Heart event.

In addition to giving a voice to these eight veterans, the VHP Day was a chance to showcase the talents of stenographic court reporters and how they use their skills to preserve history for posterity and research. The event merited significant coverage of the profession and the VHP from the following media outlets:

For more information about NCRF’s Oral History Program, visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

April Weiner is the Foundation Manager for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at aweiner@ncra.org.

 

 

The other side of the Veterans History Project: What happens to my transcripts?

VHP Photo_Jaynes

Jessica L. Jaynes poses in front of the Veterans History Project sign

By Jessica L. Jaynes

While attending the 2016 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp, I decided to make the most of my downtime between meetings on Capitol Hill, so I visited the Library of Congress Veterans History Project Center. I wanted to see where the veterans’ stories I had transcribed in the past were kept and who uses them and for what purpose. My goal was to be able to take that information back to my association, the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters, to garner support for this year’s Veterans History Project (VHP).

I started my mission at the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building, only to discover that the Veterans History Project Center is located in the American Folklife Center over in the Madison Building. I was directed down staircases and underground tunnels to make my way there. I finally made it to my destination where I met Christy Chason, VHP representative. Christy greeted me with a smile and asked what she could do for me.

I explained why I was in Washington, D.C., and I was hoping to be able to see the transcripts that I had sent in. Christy lit up, telling me how they love NCRA and the court reporters who have worked so hard transcribing the oral histories and what an important a role we play in the process. She apologized, saying that the transcripts are kept at an off-site location and that I wouldn’t be able to see them on that day, but that I was welcome to stay and take a look around.

The first picture I came across was that of Rep. Ron Kind (WI). Christy explained to me that Rep. Kind authored the original Veterans’ Oral History Project legislation after attending a family function with his father and uncle, both of whom served in the U. S. military, and wanting to document their experiences for future generations. He got a video camera and began recording their stories. I also found out that Rep. Kind’s wife is a court reporter.

The most interesting artifact I came across was a letter written home from a soldier to his beloved that was on government-issued toilet paper. The original is in a preservation environment, but there is an exact replica on the wall, along with a transcription next to it for easy reading. We proceeded on, looking at all the different photos and letters, and Christy shared the stories that went along with each of them. I was told that the transcripts we prepare are very important, as researchers, scholars, students, members of Congress, authors, and filmmakers access them on a daily basis. She was so happy that I had come to visit that she gave me a Veterans History Project pin that I proudly wore the rest of the day on my sweater to all of my meetings. I am currently awaiting a package of VHP swag from Christy to distribute at our next VHP Day coming up in November.

I would encourage all of my colleagues to transcribe at least one pre-recorded veteran interview from NCRA or to participate in your local VHP day this year. The experience is incredibly rewarding, and it means so much to our veterans to have their experiences shared. To learn more about how you can become involved with this project, contact April Weiner, NCRF Foundation Assistant, at 703-584-9052 or aweiner@ncra.org. You can also access the Veterans History Project online at loc.gov/vets. Next time you are in the area, stop by and see Christy and her colleagues. They would love to meet you.

Jessica L. Jaynes, RPR, is president-elect of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters. She can be reached at jjaynes.steno@gmail.com.

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF), the Association’s philanthropic arm, partnered with the Library of Congress more than 10 years ago to help collect transcripts for the Veterans History Project program through its Oral Histories Program. Transcripts provided to the Library of Congress are preserved for future use as part of the program. To date, NCRF has submitted 3,927 histories to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and has a goal to submit just 73 more by Memorial Day for a total of 4,000. NCRA members earn 0.25 PDC for each transcript they complete, up to 1.0 PDC per education cycle. Please visit NCRA.org/Vets for more information on how to get involved.

Veterans History Project reaches 100,000 milestone

The Military Times reported on Feb. 25 that the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, which collects and preserves the stories of U.S. war veterans, has archived 100,000 interviews. NCRA members support this project through the National Court Reporters Foundation and have contributed 3,907 transcripts to the Library since 2003.

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NCRF gives NCRA members opportunity to earn PDCs with Oral Histories Program

Uniformed soldier holding a flagAs the Sept. 30 educational cycle deadline looms, NCRA members are looking for ways to earn last-minute credits.

For these reporters, the National Court Reporters Foundation has the perfect solution: the Oral Histories Program. The OHP offers NCRA members an opportunity to advance the stature of the profession to the general public while giving back to the community. For each oral history transcribed, reporters earn 0.25 Professional Development Credit, up to 1.0 PDC, during a certification cycle. And the only expense is the reporter’s time! To date, NCRA members have transcribed almost 3,800 histories from NCRF’s OHP partners, and NCRF hopes to raise that number to 4,000 by Memorial Day 2016.

The OHP began with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project in 2003. Through the VHP, the LOC has a collection of almost 90,000 histories, including oral histories from veterans. In the interest of preserving written records of these oral histories, the LOC partnered with NCRF to recruit court reporters to transcribe these histories; because who is better suited for this job?

Since then, the OHP has expanded from war veterans’ stories to include oral histories from Holocaust survivors and attorneys who have provided pro bono services to America’s poor. In addition to transcribing prerecorded oral histories, reporters can also record the stories from veterans in their families and communities through personal interviews or by hosting VHP Days.

The OHP isn’t just for reporters looking for PDCs. The benefits extend far beyond education credits, as the program serves the greater purpose of preserving important pieces of American history.

Students should take note of the OHP, too. If students transcribe two oral histories, NCRF will pay for or reimburse a student membership in NCRA.

What are you waiting for? Sign up to transcribe an oral history today!

For details on how to participate, visit NCRA.org/OralHistoriesProgram.

Lake County veterans tell their stories for Library of Congress

The Daily Herald posted an article on Nov. 11 about the Veterans History Project event held in Lake County, Ill. A total of 34 veterans were interviewed by volunteer court reporters for the event.

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NCRA members exceed Veterans Day challenge

NCRF has announced that NCRA members exceeded the challenge to submit 3,500 oral histories of American war veterans to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project by Veterans Day 2014. The Foundation reports that 3,515 to date have been turned over to the Library of Congress.

The VHP program was launched by the Library of Congress to collect the stories of American war veterans by recording and transcribing interviews with them. The final transcripts are then submitted to the Library to be archived for future generations to read. Court reporters from around the country have actively participated in this program for more than a decade under NCRF’s Oral Histories Program.

“NCRA members are passionate about the VHP program as witnessed by the overwhelming response to meet and exceed the challenge of 3,500 interviews transcribed by Veterans Day. The Foundation is grateful to all who participated to make this happen including state associations, schools, individual members, state bar associations, and veterans groups,” said Irene Cahill, director of research and NCRF programs.

“These interviews are a vital part of our nation’s history, and the VHP is a powerful and priceless way court reporters can help preserve them for future generations. The Foundation looks forward to NCRA members to continue to reach out to our nation’s veterans,” Cahill added.

“We are excited about the members’ response to the challenge this year. In past years, NCRF has submitted an average of 325 transcripts per year. Thanks to the overwhelming efforts of the membership, NCRF has submitted more than 300 transcripts in half that time this year,” said B.J. Shorak, NCRF deputy executive director.

Across the nation Veterans Day was marked by Veterans History Project events. Groups that reported hosting events include: the Oregon Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Oregon State Bar’s Military and Veterans Law Section to hold events in three locations; the Iowa Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Des Moines Area Community College School of Court Reporting; the Hawaii Court Reporters and Captioners Association; the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Ingham County Department of Veterans Affairs and the Ingham County Circuit Court; and the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association, which partnered with the Orleans Technical Institute in Philadelphia. Other VHP events that helped collect transcribed interviews include: official court reporters from York County, Pa.; volunteers from the Illinois State Library; the Illinois Court Reporters Association, which teamed up with the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Lake County; students from Anoka Technical College, Anoka, Minn.; and court reporters from Paradigm Reporting, Minneapolis, Minn.

NCRF has partnered with the Library of Congress for more than 10 years to help generate transcripts of interviews with American war veterans for the Oral Histories Program. Professional court reporters can earn 0.25 Professional Development Credits for each transcript they complete and can earn up to a maximum of 1.0 PDC during each three-year certification period. Court reporting students can also earn a complimentary 2015 student membership in NCRA by transcribing two interviews through the Foundation’s Student Initiatives Program.

Read more about NCRF’s Oral Histories and Veterans History projects.

NCRA member calls on veterans to share their stories

An article posted on Fox43.com on Aug. 21 highlights a call for local veterans who served during WWII or the Korean War to share their stories for the Veterans History Project on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, at the York County Courthouse in York, Pa. The effort is being spearheaded by NCRA member Stephanie Jo Knaper, CRI, an official court reporter from Red Lion, Pa., and Dave Sunday, an assistant district attorney. Both work at the York County Courthouse.

The Veterans History Project is an initiative of the Library of Congress. NCRA and the National Court Reporters Foundation became involved in the project several years ago. Transcripts of the veterans’ interviews recorded by court reporters are turned over to the Library of Congress for its archives.

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