Portland, OR — According to a 2016 estimate by the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are losing 362 American WWII veterans every day. The few remaining, approximately 558,000, WWII veterans will soon be gone, taking with them their stories of life during the war.
Veterans’ Legacies, a non-profit group based in Oregon, is working to capture personal accounts of WWII veterans in order to preserve and share them in a free, online database, available to the public.
Gary Mortensen, co-founder of Veterans’ Legacies, and Mark Browning, executive director of the organization, have recently expanded their efforts to collect the stories of Oregon’s WWII veterans. In response to the growing urgency of the situation, Mortensen and Browning looked for ways to increase the ability to research and interview surviving veterans, and their families.
In September, the organization launched the Mighty Endeavor, an initiative that leverages educators, students, volunteers and service organizations across the state. According to Mortensen, “the goal of the Mighty Endeavor is to have Oregon successfully collect history about every WWII veteran who enlisted from the state.”
To create a road map for the Mighty Endeavor, Mortensen and Browning partnered with OregonASK, a group whose expertise includes curriculum development, educational training and creating enrichment opportunities for students. Together, they created a curriculum that can be used to guide efforts in the classroom, in an after-school program, or by a family member of a veteran.
With interest by the State Library of Oregon and schools across the state, the program is quickly gaining traction. Several schools have plans to include The Mighty Endeavor in their classrooms, and some have built entire classes around the curriculum.
Mark McKinney, Social Studies teacher at Yamhill Carlton High School, was one of the first to adopt the program. He has been ‘overwhelmed by the students’ response.”
“The students are learning history in a unique way,” said McKinney. “They are engaged on a level that develops a wide variety of skills, from interpersonal communications to research, to technology.”
McKinney said he has gotten calls from parents wanting to know more about the project, reporting their children are “genuinely excited about what they are doing.”
In the coming months, Veterans’ Legacies plans to bring the program to more schools, service organizations and veterans’ programs around the state. To volunteer with the effort, individuals may email the executive director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT VETERANS’ LEGACIES
Veterans’ Legacies is a volunteer-driven non-profit created to building an extensive, free, searchable database of veterans’ stories. The biographical accounts, images, and videos are stored online at www.veteranslegacies.com.
Its current major initiative is the Mighty Endeavor, which leverages the work of student and volunteers to research and share the histories of World War II veterans. When possible, students are encouraged to interview veterans, directly, and their family members.
While the focus of the Mighty Endeavor is currently being concentrated in Oregon, the program’s goal is to collect and share the histories of all veterans, of all wars, and to include them in the Veterans’ Legacies database.