NCRA members reflect on transcribing oral histories from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

An elderly man is in the middle of speaking. He sits in front of a German newspaper projected behind him.

U.S. Dept. of Defense photo by Marvin Lynchard

Nearly 20 years ago, Michelle Keegan, RMR, CRR, of Quincy, Mass., and her husband visited the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. It was an unforgettable experience.

“There was very little talking amongst all of us tourists as we walked around the camp that day,” Keegan said. “Everybody seemed to keep looking at one another hoping that somebody would speak up and make sense of it all. Nobody did. On the bus ride back to the city, there was no light chatter. People were too overwhelmed.”

Years later, Keegan transcribed the account of one of the American soldiers whose battalion liberated Dachau.

“There were about 17,000 people still [in the camp] when they arrived,” Keegan said. “The horrific things that he relayed about some of the surroundings were what we had seen on our tour. He recounted that the battalion that had moved into the camp before his had been very overcome with emotion. He relayed about the soldiers, ‘They were so upset about what they saw that they actually lined up about 40 or 50 of these Nazi guards and just mowed them down with machine guns.’”

Transcribing this interview was part of the National Court Reporters Foundation’s (NCRF) agreement with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to have NCRA members preserve oral records from the museum’s collections. Since 2014, NCRA members have transcribed parts of more than 100 interviews from the museum’s collection of more than 200,000 records.

Hearing these eyewitnesses’ first-hand accounts puts a different perspective on what is taught in school and from history books.

“The most meaningful part of transcribing these interviews was actually becoming immersed into their life story as they’re describing the events that had happened to them,” said Megan Orris, RPR, an official from Beaver Springs, Pa. “The part of the interview I had to transcribe dealt with what this man endured right before he was liberated and then following his immigration to America and the life he had here. It was very interesting to listen to a real-life story and not something from a history textbook. It gave me a whole new perspective on life and being appreciative that I never had to go through what this man and others had during the Holocaust.”

Transcribing survivors’ accounts is a way to honor the victims, says Karen Shelton, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Fort Worth, Texas.

“I have read the stories of Holocaust survivors for years and have visited Holocaust memorials in several places and have always found them deeply moving.  When the opportunity arose to transcribe the oral histories of survivors, I knew it was something I wanted to participate in.  As much as I have learned from educating myself about the history of that time and the plight of so many victims, I felt that transcribing some of their stories was something tangible I could do to honor their memories and to provide a written record for future generations to read,” Shelton said.

Some reporters who have never transcribed an interview of a Holocaust survivor may be hesitant to do so for emotional reasons.

“I was very anxious when I hit the play button on my first Holocaust interview. Would I be able to contain my emotion and get through whatever story I was going to hear?” Keegan said. “Just like in a deposition, I automatically switched into court reporter mode and listened for the words rather than the content the best that I could.”

Keegan and many other reporters are happy to have participated.

“I cannot fully express the gratitude that I have to be able to be a part of transcribing these stories.  I am humbled by the strength and courage of these men and women who sit and recount their stories so that the rest of us may understand this part of our history. The overwhelming appreciation that I have always had for the men and women of our Armed Forces has been strengthened by these interviews. In just a very tiny way, I feel that I have helped to preserve the stories of all of these people,” Keegan said.

Orris concurs: “Another meaningful part of transcribing these interviews was preserving their story. I think that has a whole new meaning in itself that we as reporters get to transcribe these stories, and they’re saved forever in the archives for people to read years from now. It gives you a special feeling to be able to have done something like this.”

For more information on NCRF’s Oral Histories Program and to get involved, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/OralHistories, or contact April Weiner, Foundation Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

National Court Reporters Foundation Trustees announced

NCRF logoThe NCRA Board of Directors elected the following individuals to the 2017-2018 National Court Reporters Foundation Board of Trustees: Danielle Griffin, RPR, Phoenix, Ariz.; Karen G. Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR, Lotus, Calif.

Danielle Griffin represents the future of the profession and can aid NCRF in its continued focus on helping students finish court reporting school and new reporters acquire the opportunities to thrive in the profession. She grew up in the court reporting field, working in her mother’s firm in Phoenix from the time she was in middle school, an experience that gives her more in-depth understanding of the business and profession than the average new reporter. As a new reporter with diverse experience and contacts, Griffin commits fully to everything she does. Griffin comes from a culture of volunteerism and strong fundraising experience and understands the value of networking and using those contacts to help make whatever she’s tasked with successful.

Karen Teig has extensive experience volunteering and serving on boards in both her personal or professional life, and she has had specific training on how to advocate for a philanthropic project. This has given her a thorough understanding of what it takes to be both a worker and a leader. She has served on numerous state and national committees; is a past state and national board member; and is past president of her state association. Teig has a true spirit of giving back and has been a long-time supporter of NCRF, whether promoting NCRF during state rep visits; transcribing histories for the VHP program; helping raise funds through her service on the Angels Drive Committee; or donating to NCRF through the Angels program.

Sandy VanderPol is a committed volunteer who has contributed extensively to the profession by writing articles, giving presentations, and serving on many court reporting association committees and boards. She has strong leadership experience, having been president of both her local and state court reporting associations. VanderPol’s accomplishments are well-known as the recipient of NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award, and she is highly respected within the NCRA membership for her work ethic, ability to think outside the box, and intimate knowledge of and passion for the profession.

The NCRF Trustees will begin their three-year terms on Aug. 12, 2017, at the annual NCRF Board of Trustees meeting that will take place in conjunction with the NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. The Nominating Committee thanks all candidates for their dedication to the profession and congratulates the new Trustees.

Call for Altruism Award nominations

Jan Ballman presents Pat Graves with the 2016 Aurelio Award

Jan Ballman presents Pat Graves with the 2016 Aurelio Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the Santo J. Aurelio Award for Altruism, the highest honor awarded by the National Court Reporters Foundation. The deadline for nominations is July 7.

The Aurelio Award, which is presented at the NCRA Convention & Expo, is bestowed on a long-time court reporter who has given back selflessly to the profession or community. The nominee must be an NCRA Participating or Registered member or a Retired Participating or Registered member, have demonstrated altruistic behavior, and have been a working reporter for at least 25 years.

“For me, being recognized by my peers was and continues to be a professional highlight,” said Pat Graves, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and firm owner from Monument, Colo., and the 2016 Aurelio Award recipient.

“To hear the heartfelt words of people I work with and serve is both humbling and startling! I always think I fly under the radar and that no one notices me or what I do,” Graves said.

“It is with dedication and care that one’s peers send in a nomination and then do all the follow-up work required for this award or really any award bestowed upon NCRA members. I encourage my colleagues to please consider nominating someone you know for this award. You never know how much it will mean to them,” she added.

For questions or more information about the Santo J. Aurelio Award for Altruism, contact B.J. Shorak, NCRF Deputy Executive Director, at 800-272-6272, ext. 126, or at bjshorak@ncra.org.

Nominate now.

NCRF’s Purple Heart Veterans History Project earns top honors

BowStern representatives Ashleigh Flanders and Amanda Handley hold three awards -- two plaques and a trophy

BowStern representatives Ashleigh Flanders (left) and Amanda Handley (right) hold the Golden Image Awards recognizing NCRF’s Purple Heart Veterans History Project event

NCRF’s efforts to commemorate National Purple Heart Day by hosting a Veterans History Project event during the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo held in Chicago, Ill., last August have earned top honors in the Golden Image Awards sponsored by the Florida Public Relations Association’s (FPRA) Capital Chapter.

The NCRF Purple Heart event recently earned an Image Award, a Judges Award, and a Grand Image Award, which is the highest award given, in the category of Printed Tools of Public Relations-News Release. NCRA’s external public relations firm BowStern, which is based in Tallahassee, Fla., nominated NCRA’s effort for the award.

The Purple Heart event, which was sponsored in part by AristoCat, captured the stories of eight Purple Heart recipients from Chicago and the surrounding area for preservation at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project collection. The event also drew significant media coverage, including:

More recently, the NCRF Purple Heart effort was showcased in the December 2016 issue of Convene magazine as well as in a May article that appeared in Associations Now.

NCRF has been invited to host a Veterans History Project event at the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s annual convention taking place in mid-August in Dallas, Texas.

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

Preserving history

Tiva Wood (left) interviews Edward Connor, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

Tiva Wood (left) interviews Edward Connor while Michelle Houston provides CART.

NCRF’s new Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project takes the Veterans History Project to the next level

By April Weiner

Edward Connor was dining in the mess hall when the Japanese bombed his base during World War II. Everyone was running for cover in a nearby ditch. “I landed on a guy and said to him: ‘As soon as we get out of this, I’ll take my feet out of your face,’” Major Connor told NCRA President Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, who was interviewing him for the Veterans History Project (VHP). “He said, ‘You leave your feet where they is,’” since the feet were protecting the other soldier’s head. Major Connor lost most of his hearing when one of the bombs struck an airplane close to the ditch, but that didn’t prevent him from finishing his mission before returning home to seek treatment.

Connor, who served in the Air Force, was one of five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss who chronicled their service experiences for the VHP at the National Court Reporters Foundation’s launch of its Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) headquarters in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 18. The other veterans interviewed were: Fred Becchetti, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II; David McWatters, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War; Charles Rupprecht, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War; and James Whitcraft, who served in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War, among other conflicts. (Rupprecht and Whitcraft were interviewed over the phone.)

Glynis Locks takes down the interview of Charles Rupprecht.

Glynis Locks takes down the interview of Charles Rupprecht.

Court reporters and captioners traveled from as far as southern Virginia and Pennsylvania to volunteer their time and skills to preserve these veterans’ experiences for the VHP.

“Veterans always thank the court reporters who capture and transcribe their stories at events like the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project,” said Wood, who is a freelancer based in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “But truly, we are the ones who are thankful for being given the opportunity to honor them by ensuring that their stories become part of history forever through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Being able to capture and preserve the stories of our war heroes who are hard of hearing takes a combined effort of the skills of court reporters and captioners and highlights the important role they play in allowing this group of veterans to tell their stories.”

In addition to Wood, the volunteers at the event were Cheryl Hansberry, RDR, CRR, CRC, Harrisburg, Pa., and her husband, Mike; Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, Carlisle, Pa.; Glynis Locks, Norfolk, Va.; Michelle Houston, RPR, Brandywine, Md.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Nashville, Tenn.; Jan Hamilton, RDR, Arnold, Md.; Christina Hotsko, RPR, Arlington, Va.; and Meredith Dattoli, Bethesda, Md.

Hamilton transcribed Major Connor’s interview: “The most memorable thing for me was hearing [Connor] speak of the various battles, in the air and on the ground, and his bravery that led to him ultimately being awarded the Silver Star. It was a humbling experience to meet a decorated soldier of this era.”

Dattoli interviewed Rupprecht, and the experience was personally meaningful for her. “The most interesting part of our conversation to me was the fact that his hearing loss was the result of an accident,” said Dattoli. “He was only 21 or 22 when, while participating in training exercises, he happened to be right next to a missile that accidentally went off, which led to the hearing loss that he still experiences today, more than 40 years later. In the grand scheme of things, he was lucky that nothing worse happened, but his story really opened my eyes to how much the men and women in our military sacrifice every day, even if they aren’t on the front lines.” She added: “Having the opportunity to interview Mr. Rupprecht and hearing his story hit especially close to home for me because my older brother is in the Navy and my boyfriend is in the Army, and I have a higher appreciation now for how lucky they have been.”

From L to R: Cheryl Hansberry transcribes as Mike Hansberry interviews Fred Becchetti, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

From L to R: Cheryl Hansberry transcribes as Mike Hansberry interviews Fred Becchetti, while Michelle Houston provides CART.

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 now more than 100,000 oral histories. 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 more than 4,100 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

“This was one of those special moments in life where I was doing something for someone else,” said Larson. “[McWatters’] story will be preserved because I was there providing court reporting and then later transcribed it. His story will be stored at the Library of Congress and be a part of history.”

The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is a new NCRF initiative that specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss for the VHP with the help of CART captioning. This is important because hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat. Hearing loss also tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

“One can’t help but become engrossed while listening to these amazing veterans tell their stories as if it were yesterday,” said Houston. “[Major Connor’s] wife reminded him to share events and awards he had left out to ensure we got the whole story. We were eager to hear it as well. It was a privilege and an honor to provide CART captioning for this project.”

Washington D.C.’s news channel NBC4 came to the event and heard from two of the veterans interviewed, Becchetti and McWatters, as well as NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak. “I was surprised to be on the Channel 4 News so much and that it was mostly as a hand model,” said Larson. “It was one of those days where you just don’t know what you’re getting into and you leave feeling like, I’m happy that I was there. It was a good day.”

From left to right: Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton.

From left to right: Michelle Houston, Sarah Connor, Edward Connor, Tiva Wood, and Jan Hamilton.

NCRF will host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days across the country, supported by an Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives Foundation. The next event will be held during HLAA’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June, and a third event is planned in conjunction with the Association of Late-Deafened Adults’ annual convention, which will be held in Orlando, Fla., in October.

For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

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

NCRF currently accepting nominations for scholarship and grant

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Robert H. Clark Scholarship and the New Professional Reporter Grant. The deadline for both the scholarship and the grant is April 21.

The $2,000 Robert H. Clark Scholarship is in its third year and is named for the late Robert H. (Bob) Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. In 1993, he donated his extensive collection of books, artifacts, and documents related to court reporting to NCRF to help establish a namesake library housed at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. This scholarship was made possible thanks to a generous donation by Donna Hamer, Clark’s cousin, made in 2015.

“I have never met people who wish you success as if it was their own until I chose court reporting as my career path. I have always felt support and encouragement by people in the court reporting profession, and I feel honored and grateful to have been awarded the Robert H. Clark Scholarship,” said Natasha Jones after receiving the scholarship in 2016. “I am in the home stretch of court reporting school, and this scholarship will help me pay for my last quarters in school as well as certification testing. I cannot wait to become a court reporter!”

Court reporting students must be nominated by an instructor or advisor and meet a number of specific criteria to be eligible, including:

  • enrollment in an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • passing at least one of the court reporting program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 200 words per minute
  • having a GPA of 3.5 or above, demonstrating the need for financial assistance
  • possessing the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

The New Professional Reporter Grant of $2,000 benefits a qualified new working reporter who has graduated from an NCRA-approved program within the past year, among other criteria.

“Being a new reporter can be a little intimidating because every day is something new and unknown, which is also what makes it so exciting,” said Cathy Carpenter, the 2016 recipient of the New Professional Reporter Grant. “One of the best things about court reporting is that there are so many people willing to help, teach, and do whatever is necessary to help new reporters, such as myself, succeed. Receiving this [grant] is a prime example of the support that is out there in our community, and I am extremely grateful for it as I am starting out in my career.”

NCRF’s scholarships and grant are supported by donations to the NCRF Angels Drive and other fundraisers. Recipients will be recognized at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo., being held in Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 10-13.

To learn more about the Robert H. Clark Scholarship or the New Professional Reporter Grant, and to find the nomination forms, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

NCRF Hard-of-Hearing Heroes oral histories project spotlighted

jcr-publications_high-resThe Andrews Gazette (Easton, Md.) posted an article about the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Veterans History Project event that NCRF and the Hearing Loss Association of America will host on Feb. 18 in Bethesda, Md., as part of NCRA’s 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Read more.

NCRF announces new Major Gift donation

NCRF logo new web

The National Court Reporters Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Court Reporters Association, announced that Nancy Hopp, RDR, CRR, CMRS, of St. Louis, Mo., has become the latest donor to NCRF’s Major Gifts Program at the Silver level. Hopp currently chairs the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

“My gift to the Foundation is given with gratitude for the many ways court reporting has enriched my life. It has allowed me to meet interesting people and hear fascinating things, to travel, to expand my knowledge of the world and of technology, and, most importantly, to provide a comfortable living for my family,” said Hopp.

Hopp joins founding Platinum donor Veritext, based in Livingston, N.J., and Silver donors Debra K. and Jeffrey M. Cheyne from Sherwood, Ore.; Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, owner of Paradigm Reporting in Minneapolis, Minn.; and B.J. Shorak, of Vienna, Va.

Major Gifts donors make contributions of $5,000 or more in a calendar year. There are three contribution levels: a Silver contribution, which reflects donations of $5,000 to $24,999; a Gold contribution, which reflects donations of $25,000 to $49,999; and a Platinum contribution, which reflects donations of $50,000 and higher. Donations through the Major Gifts Program support all of NCRF’s programs.

“NCRF, through its charitable works, casts a positive spotlight on the good works of reporters through scholarships, grants, the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute, the Legal Education Program, and the Oral Histories Program. I view my Major Gift as but a small thank-you for the many incredible benefits that court reporting has brought to me,” said Hopp.

NCRF launched the Major Gifts Program at the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo in New York City.

Contributors to NCRF’s Major Gifts Program are required to adhere to the program’s donation policy, which includes a review by a Major Gifts Donation Committee, a written agreement by the donor to abide by NCRA’s Constitution & Bylaws and its Code of Professional Ethics, and the agreement to ensure all donated funds are received by NCRF in a specified time.

For more information about NCRF’s Major Gifts Program, contact NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak at 703-556-6272 or bjshorak@ncra.org.

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project receives grant

hard-of-hearing-com-smThe National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) recently won a $10,000 Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Foundation. The grant supports NCRF’s new program, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project, which seeks to preserve the stories of America’s war veterans with hearing loss using CART captioning. The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is an offshoot of NCRF’s continued work with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). NCRF will use grant funds to host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days across the nation.

“NCRF is honored to be one of the recipients of this extremely competitive grant that allows us to expand our work preserving the accounts of America’s veterans,” said Mike Nelson, CEO and Executive Director of NCRA and NCRF. “Receiving this grant showcases our organization and the court reporting profession to tens of thousands of association executives across the country. In addition, it promotes our members’ services to thousands of members of veterans and hearing loss organizations at whose conventions NCRF will host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days, including our partners the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).”

NCRF is one of four recipients of the ASAE Foundation’s Innovation Grants, which receives more than 100 applications each year.

“Since the ASAE Foundation started the Innovation Grant Program (IGP) five years ago, we have received a number of outstanding applications that illustrate the innovative work associations are doing to help improve the industry. The committee had a hard time selecting four winners again this year,” said Paul K. Farrell, 2016 chair of the IGP steering committee and associate director of audiology professional practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “Congratulations to the winning associations!”

The inaugural Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project VHP Day event will be on Feb. 18 at HLAA’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md., in conjunction with Court Reporting & Captioning Week. NCRF will also host events at HLAA’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June and at ALDA’s annual convention in Orlando, Fla., in October.

“HLAA is delighted to work with the National Court Reporters Foundation on the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project. It is vitally important that veterans’ wartime experiences are preserved for generations to come and are accessible to people with hearing loss,” said Nancy Macklin, Director of External Affairs & Events for HLAA. “As a token of appreciation for their service, HLAA provides veterans with hearing loss a complimentary membership and convention registration. HLAA will assist NCRF in recruiting veterans with hearing loss to be interviewed for this project.”

Four veterans will be interviewed at each of three sessions on Feb. 18. The sessions are 9-10:30 a.m.; 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; and 1:30-3 p.m.

For each veteran’s interview, NCRF will need a volunteer to interview the veteran, a captioner to provide realtime for the veteran, and a reporter to transcribe the interview for the Library of Congress. Both the court reporter and captioner may earn 0.25 PDCs for each veteran interviewed.

If you would like to volunteer at the Feb. 18 event, please contact April Weiner, NCRF Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

Court reporting schools and state associations across country honor veterans through the Veterans History Project

Many court reporting schools, state associations, firms, and courthouses across the nation celebrate Veterans Day by interviewing veterans about their wartime experiences for the Veterans History Project (VHP). These VHP Days have become annual traditions in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, to name just a few places.

Iowa Court Reporters Association & Des Moines Area Community College

For the past eight years, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) has partnered with a local court reporting school to host a VHP Day in November. The event was hosted at AIB College of Business until the school closed its court reporting program in 2012. When Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) picked up AIB’s court reporting program, it also happily picked up the partnership with ICRA. Between the partnerships with AIB and DMACC, ICRA has interviewed almost 200 veterans.

On Nov. 4, DMACC and ICRA hosted their third shared VHP Day and interviewed 12 veterans who had served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The event involves more than simply interviewing veterans. This year, the local color guard posted the colors, Renee Davenport sang the national anthem, and Col. Greg Hapgood from Camp Dodge in Johnson, Iowa, handed out framed certificates to the veterans following a catered luncheon.

The event provides an opportunity to recognize veterans for their service, even when the veterans do not believe there is anything noteworthy about their service.

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler. (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

“The common theme I have noted among all stories is that they don’t feel that their service was of any particular importance,” said Pamela Burkle, RPR, an official from Urbandale, Iowa, one of the organizers of the annual event. “But when you put them all together, they are important. One part cannot work without the other. One veteran said he made bread, and that was his job, and he didn’t feel it was very important. However, I think if you asked any of the veterans in his platoon, they would say their bread/food was an integral part of their survival.”

Since the event is hosted at DMACC, court reporting students are invited to participate as student guides and room monitors. In addition to hearing the veterans’ stories, which have a profound impact on everyone in the room, the students get the opportunity to speak with the seasoned court reporters who are transcribing the interviews.

“I was speaking with the student in my room and explaining how I was adding to my job dictionary based on the conversation the interviewer and the veteran were having prior to the interview starting,” said Burkle. “She had no idea how that worked, and she told me that she thought I was having computer problems because I kept going back to my laptop.”

There is a sense of urgency to interviewing veterans before it’s too late. “Last year, shortly after the histories were taken, a couple of the veterans passed away before the transcripts were even completed,” said Burkle. Fortunately, their stories will live on in the Library of Congress.

Anoka Technical College & Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners

The Judicial Reporting Program at Anoka Technical College in Minnesota has hosted an annual VHP Day the Saturday before Veterans Day since 2008, interviewing approximately 50 veterans to date. Working closely with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners, the college recruits students to interview the veterans and Minnesotan reporters to write and transcribe the interviews.

The annual event used to be hosted on the college campus, but Anoka Tech has recently taken the event off-site.

“The past couple of years we have taken our team to an assisted living home so we can interview World War II and Korean War veterans who are not as mobile anymore,” said Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, an NCRA Director and instructor at Anoka Tech. “Most recently, on Nov. 5, Minnesota reporters and students … joined together to help preserve history for 12 wartime veterans at Chandler Place Assisted Living in St. Anthony.” Nine of these veterans served in World War II and three served in the Korean War.

“We make our VHP event more than just interviews,” Sati continues. “We have food, music (an accordion player), decorations, and we invite veterans to return back the following years to enjoy the day and continue building friendships.”

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes.

Tom Piltoff, a court reporting student, served as an interviewer at this year’s event. “It was an extremely humbling experience to be in the presence of such great men and an honor to have been able to hear even a small chapter or two of their stories,” he said.

The participants will remember these stories for years to come. One memorable veteran is Larry Tillemans.

“He lived in a small town outside of the Twin Cities,” said Sati. “One of the students who worked as a waitress in a small café he frequented mentioned that her school hosts VHP Days. He was interested! As it turns out, Mr. Tillemans was a typist with the Third Army in Munich, Germany (1945-1946). He was assigned by the Army to type transcripts at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials and the Dachau Tribunal. Throughout the 218 days Mr. Tillemans spent in Germany, he witnessed over 350 Nazis and victims of the Holocaust give their testimony. Mr. Tillemans personally typed over 200,000 affidavits. He shares his experience with as many people as he could. He is adamant people hear actual accounts from people who were present when history was being made.”

Lake County, Ill., Veterans History Project

The Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., has hosted its annual VHP Day for the past five years on Veterans Day.

“Our VHP event would never have happened if it hadn’t been for my colleague, Vernita Allen-Williams (our current ILCRA president),” said Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, an official from Lake County, Ill., one of the event’s organizers. Allen-Williams, RMR, an official from Waukegan, Ill., is the current president for the Illinois Court Reporters Association. “[She] had read about the project and mentioned it to our then-chief judge, Fred Foreman, and, upon his retirement, support for the project was continued by our next chief judge, John Phillips, who is also a veteran,” Cohen-Rojas continued. “Both Judge Foreman and Judge Phillips are retired now, but they remain strong supporters of the project, and they both volunteered at this year’s event.” According to Cohen-Rojas, Allen-Williams and Colleen Eitermann, an official, from Deerfield, Ill., coordinated the first event and began “what has become a proud tradition at our courthouse.”

This event has grown exponentially over the past five years, from nine veterans the first year to a record 35 veterans this year, bringing their five-year total up to 134 veterans interviewed.

“The first year we did the VHP,” says Cohen-Rojas, “we put out pastries and fruit and coffee, and we had the opening ceremony in one of our courtrooms. Then, as more people participated each year, more people wanted to be involved and more ideas started to surface. The Young Marines, in addition to helping serve the veterans and their families breakfast, also help out as escorts for disabled veterans. Last year we had challenge coins made for the veterans with all of the branches of the military represented on them. We started sending the veterans packages after the interviews with copies of their interview transcripts, framed certificates, thank-you letters, and photos from the event. Representatives from organizations like the Honor Flight and the Daughters of the American Revolution got involved, as well. It has really been an honor to watch this event grow and evolve. My favorite part is hearing afterward from volunteers that the experience has changed them and that they want to volunteer again not just for the next year, but for every year after that!”

The entire community backs the annual event. The Lake County Bar Association supplies interviewers and escorts for the veterans, and contributes financially to support the event.

“State’s attorneys, public defenders, and private practitioners participate, as well as several retired judges,” adds Cohen-Rojas. “The Marines volunteer time and food for the fantastic breakfast served to the veterans and their families. The staff at the 19th Circuit café volunteer their time in helping to serve breakfast, as well.”

Of course, the event wouldn’t be complete without the court reporters.

“The court reporters are really superstars. Several of the 19th Circuit’s reporters participate, and we have freelancers and other officials who come from all over the state as well as several from other states,” said Cohen-Rojas. “I talked to at least three reporters this year who had come from so far away that they got hotel rooms and traveled in the day before the event. These reporters happily sacrifice their time off and, in the case of freelancers, personal expense to be a part of this event. I really can’t say enough about them.”

For more information on how you can interview a veteran in your community, or host your own VHP Day, visit NCRA.org/NCRF or contact NCRF’s Foundation Manager, April Weiner, aweiner@ncra.org.