For my digital history project, I decided to make a podcast incorporating the interviews of four veteran/service members who discussed modern military service. I decided to do this topic because my generation of veterans and service members aren’t being represented well or in their own words often. West Chester’s Soldiers to Scholars project inspired me to make my own version of a veteran project that kept their project’s positives and negatives in mind.
To gather the data for this project, I assembled veterans who varied in their experiences and had served/continue to serve in the Post-9/11 military. My interviews include a former Enlisted Marine Corps infantryman who spent 4 years in the military, a retired US Army Colonel who was Military Intelligence, an active-duty Army Captain who is Infantry, and an active-duty enlisted Airforce Staff Sergeant who works with fighter aircraft munitions. Privacy was essential to this project, especially since active-duty personnel could get in trouble for contributing. I also had to make sure veterans and service members where not providing secret or sensitive information. To accomplish this task, I had the participants sign a waiver and consent verbally and in written-form.
The audience I had for this project was very broad and included: military history enthusiasts, high school and college students, other veterans, and a wider public who may be interested in hearing what military service was/is like and what it meant/means service members. I assume my audience could access this project via any digital media device (any device that is internet-accessible and can play MP3 files). I chose the MP3 file format since it has been around over 20 years and continues to be a standard for audio files. In regards to my target audience, they must be mature enough to understand the interviewees stories, and to hear the explicit language and content. A caveat about the language and material in the content means it should not be a stand-alone podcast for young adults. However, as a compiled primary source, it provides wide view of military service post-9/11. To appeal to students and military buffs, I asked veterans to recommend one book while also including a list of books relating to Post-9/11 military service. I also tried to frame the content with my introduction and narrations, but I wanted to have minimal impact on the veteran’s stories since their words are the focus of my project. I merely have interpreted their argument via my questions and framing of the finished product
The podcast is the best tool to present a veteran’s stories and experiences because of its accessibility, the fact it presents a veteran’s story in their own words and it can be easily collected, edited, played, and stored. This project is accessible because of the size of my MP3, the file format, and the ease using mp3 recording devices to capture a veteran’s audio. I used Garage band to create, compile and edit the veteran interviews. More importantly, veterans who I could not interview in person I interview and record from Skype. By recording veteran’s interviews verbatim and via Garage band, I could compare veteran’s interviews and edit them to make a sensible podcast theme. My project also seemed to encourage some veterans to speak openly about military service in a way that they may not have in a more formal interview. However, it’s important to mention my relationship with the vets helped and in addition to making their anonymity a key priority.
While I make a point to not inject a concluding interpretation in my podcast, expected differences and striking similarities among the four veterans is presented. For instance, when I asked the two veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom how they felt about Afghani allies, one veteran talked about the positive relationship he had with the people, followed by another vet, who told a story about how his unit was attacked by their Afghani allies and how he did not trust them. The similarities of veterans’ experiences are interesting because they had very different career trajectories. The Army Colonel was a retiree from the Armed forces; the Army Captain, is active duty infantry officer and combat veteran; the Air Force Sergeant is active and enlisted; and the Marine corps veteran was an enlisted infantryman and had a severely negative view of the military. All the veterans agreed on how they wish the public to see them, several veterans agreed on training, and all represented a broad range of military experience. I only regret having not interviewed a Navy veteran.
In the future, I will build upon this project and use it in my classroom. I hope I can incorporate more veteran interviews in order to gain a more nuanced view of the military and military service post-9/11. Future work to this project will allow me to work on the quality of audio by investigating better methods to record individuals over skype. In addition, I will also be mindful of using professional tools (a better microphone, a more controlled audio environment, and a more nuanced interview process). Working on this project has been an incredibly fulfilling. For the first time, I will say that I’m working on a project that I would continue even after I leave graduate school. It was amazing to see how these service members appreciated my project and how happy they were to see I cared about their experiences. I hope that when I present this project publicly, it will inspire people to listen to service member’s stories, inspire service members to contribute their own stories for posterity, and inspire future historians to start their own projects.
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“Service members Speak: The Middle East and U.S. Military Service post-9/11”
Recommended Reading list
Veteran/Active Duty Recommended
Veteran USMC Cpl Aaron– “This book is about a small, fierce fighting force and relates to how marines see themselves… [many Marines I met know this book].”
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Stephen Pressfield
S. Army CPT Mark:
Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat by James R. McDonough
“This book prepared me for what I would experience in Afghanistan [even though this memoir was about Vietnam, many of the lessons rang true].”
(Retired) U.S. Army COL Paul:
This Kind of War: A Study in unpreparedness by COL T.R. Fehrenbach
“[The author, writing about the Korean War,] addresses the costs of shortchanging an Army’s ability to train and fight and what happens when an Army shortchanges itself in terms of decision making. Compelling and thought-provoking, it offers [a myriad of] lessons for junior officers and NCO’s.”
Air Force SSgt. Matt
( No suggestions offered)
Readings Suggested by the Author
Fobbit by David Abrams
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Desert Storm (1990-1991):
The Gulf War 1990-91 by William Thomas Allison
The Eyes of Orion: Five Tank Lieutenants in the Persian Gulf War by Alex Vernon
The Mother of All Battles: Saddam Hussein’s Strategic Plan for the Persian Gulf War by Kevin M. Woods
Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2011):
- Cobra II: The inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon
- Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq by Peter Monsoor
(Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014)/ Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2015- Present)
Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds by Kevin Maurer
One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick
(also deals with Iraq)
Source Citations, Podcast
- The music utilized for the podcast is titled: “Soldier’s Farewell Fanfare/Montezuma/March of War/Windsor Park” by The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. The song is in the public domain and came from Freemusicarchive.org.
* 9/11 statistics gathered from, CNN. “September 11, 2001: Background and timeline of the attacks.” http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11-anniversary-fast-facts/.