The Iowa Court Reporters Association has invited veterans to share their stories for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project via an article posted on dailyiowegian.com on April 12. ICRA plans to hold the VHP Day during its annual convention in June.
NCRF launched the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) headquarters in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss chronicled their service experiences for the Veterans History Project (VHP):
- Fred Becchetti, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II
- Edward Connor, who served in the Air Force 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
- James Whitcraft, who served in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War, among other conflicts
Rupprecht and Whitcraft were interviewed over the phone.
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 collection at the Library of Congress.
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. 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 4,000 transcripts to the Library of Congress.
The Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project is a new NCRF VHP initiative that specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss with the help of CART captioning. Hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat, and it 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.
Washington D.C.’s news channel NBC4 was on-site to hear from two of the veterans interviewed, Becchetti and McWatters, as well as NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak.
According to McWatters, veterans need to be educated on services they are entitled to.
“Veterans aren’t getting the information,” McWatters told NBC4. “If they had the information, they could use it. They have benefits.”
NCRF will host Hard-of-Hearing Heroes VHP Days across the country, supported by an Innovation Grant from the ASAE Foundation. NCRF will host an event during HLAA’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June, as well as at the Association of Late-Deafened Adults annual convention in Orlando, Fla., in October.
The 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.
The 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 firstname.lastname@example.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 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.”
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.”
The December issue of Convene magazine features an article showcasing NCRF’s Purple Heart Day VHP event held at the NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. The article quotes NCRF Chair Nancy Hopp, RDR, CRR, CMRS, St. Louis, Mo. In addition, NCRA CEO and Executive Director, Mike Nelson, CAE, and NCRF Manager April Weiner are also quoted.
By April Weiner
In honor of Veterans Day earlier this month, court reporting firms across the nation gathered to interview veterans about their wartime experiences as part of NCRF’s partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP).
Two of these firms have become pillars of support for the VHP: Paradigm Reporting in Minneapolis, Minn., and Urlaub, Bowen, & Associates in Chicago, Ill.
Paradigm Reporting hosted its seventh annual VHP Day on Oct. 29, bringing the firm’s total of veterans interviewed up to 39.
“I always say that VHP Day at Paradigm is my favorite day of the year because it makes me so proud on so many levels: I am proud to be an American, I am proud to be honoring U.S. servicemen and women through this project, I am proud to support NCRF by hosting a VHP Day, and I am proud of my team for their volunteerism,” says Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, and the owner of Paradigm Reporting. “Each year within Paradigm we field volunteer greeters, hospitality, interviewers, videographers, and court reporters who give freely of their time on a Saturday, and, of course, the court reporters then go beyond that to transcribe. The veterans are always humble and grateful, and we mirror those sentiments by being humbled by their sacrifice and grateful for their service.”
Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR, of Urlaub, Bowen, & Associates, and her firm first got involved with the VHP four years ago with the Lake County (Illinois) VHP Day held annually on Veterans Day. In addition to participating at Lake County’s event, Urlaub and two of her reporters transcribed interviews at the VHP event held on Purple Heart Day, Aug. 7, at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago, and she and other reporters conduct other interviews of veterans on their own.
All in all, Urlaub and her staff have transcribed at least 15 veterans’ interviews, but as Urlaub is quick to point out, she and her staff will continue to participate.
“The experience is so gratifying, I’ve been known to say I would pay them to let me attend,” says Urlaub. “From my first time, I was hooked. The ceremony, gratitude, and reverence shown the veterans are quite wonderful. The VHP has become near and dear to me, and I love having the opportunity to remind the court reporting community of the gift we possess; we are the link for these wonderful men and women — who are dying by the hundreds each day — to tell their stories and for them to be memorialized.”
Many veterans have never been asked about their wartime experiences, but are willing to share with those willing to listen.
“There have been numerous occasions in which the veteran told their story here at Paradigm for the very first time,” says Ballman. “Sometimes as they approach the end of their life, they decide it’s time to tell their story, lest it never be told. It’s incredibly moving to be a part of an experience like that — hearing it for the first time along with their family. We always have Kleenex close by, and trust me, they get used!”
One of the veterans interviewed at Paradigm on Oct. 29 was Simon Velasquez. Velasquez’s story of heroism and endurance inspired all those in the room, including Ballman and Karen Kelly Larson, who transcribed his interview.
“His narrative included overcoming racial discrimination while navigating through nine flight schools; flying 27 combat missions with the United States Army Air Forces; being blown out of his plane after it was struck by enemy fire and exploded; parachuting into hostile territory, injured, yet evading the Germans for days before finally being captured; withstanding brutal interrogations and solitary incarceration; enduring wretched conditions as a POW; and, finally, suffering unspeakable hardship and sorrow on a death march through the Bavarian Alps,” Larson wrote in a blog on Paradigm’s website. “I have never been so moved.”
Memories from her first VHP Day have stayed with Urlaub.
“The first year I participated, I had the most wonderful veteran, John. His daughter and granddaughter were there. To this day, I still tell people some of the amusing and heartwarming parts of his story, and his transcript still resides on my hard drive. He landed on Utah Beach and was tasked with uncovering land mines. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and received a Medal of Honor and Purple Heart. Very self-effacing, humble man. After the war, he married his hometown sweetheart. They were married for 52 years, 10 children. After that, he was married to another wonderful woman for 12 years. No children, though! When he said that, we all laughed.”
Urlaub continues to participate at Lake County’s event each year, along with several members of her staff.
“When [the organizer] contacts me, I send out an email to my staff asking for volunteers,” says Urlaub. “I sort of do it with bated breath for fear that too many of them will volunteer and we’ll be short-staffed. On the other hand, it is a court holiday, so we don’t have trials or motions on the calendar. This year there were four of us, which represented about a fourth of our staff. We can never be certain of our calendar, but it always works out.”
Urlaub emphasizes the importance of interviewing veterans now while they still can be interviewed.
“It’s difficult to get the word out and coordinate physically getting the veterans to the courthouse. Many of them are infirm and need a lot of assistance to make this happen,” says Urlaub. “Which is why it finally dawned on me: why not just do this on our own? As wonderful as [the VHP Day] is, and it’s great for the veterans to be honored and revered at this public event, some of them can’t get out, their loved ones are gone. Who’s to say I can’t go to the veteran, have a friend draw out their story, transcribe [it], and submit it? Sadly, I discussed doing this for my brother-in-law’s uncle, who was in failing health, but he passed away shortly after our discussion. I won’t let that happen again.”
Court reporters preserve the record on a daily basis, and the VHP affords them the opportunity to preserve a written record of these veterans’ experiences.
“It’s a wonderfully patriotic thing to use your court reporting skills to capture American history live and then preserve it for all time,” says Ballman. “We’ve had at least 10 of the veterans we’ve reported pass away since, and while that news is always sad, we are glad we captured their story while they were with us, and we know the transcripts and videos that we created will not only live on in the Library of Congress for future generations to view, but they will surely become treasured family keepsakes.”
For more information on interviewing a veteran or hosting a VHP Day, visit NCRA.org/NCRF.
April Weiner is the Foundation Manager for the National Court Reporters Foundation. She can be reached at email@example.com. Many people participated in VHP events this month, so we’ve broken this into a multi-part series. Stay tuned for the next one. If you participated in a VHP and would like to share your experience in the JCR Weekly, please email April Weiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NJ.com reported on Nov. 16 that the U.S. Senate has approved legislation that adds Gold Star families to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. The measure allows family members of those killed or missing in action to share their stories as part of the program. The bill is now headed to the president’s desk for signing.
The Newton Daily News posted an article on Nov. 11 about a Veterans History Project event held at the Des Moines Area (Iowa) Community College that was hosted by students from its court reporting program. Members from the Iowa Court Reporters Association interviewed 12 veterans during the event in honor of Veterans Day.
The Lake County News-Sun, Lake County, Ill., posted an article on Nov. 11 about the Veterans History Project event held in honor of Veterans Day. The event was coordinated by local court reporters Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, and Colleen Eitermann.