Art Callaham: A mission to share our veterans' stories

November 10, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

With today being Veterans Day, I want to take this opportunity to announce several features at The Herald-Mail that focus on veterans. 

“Through a Veteran’s Eye” is a relatively new television show on HMTV6.  Fred Shinbur (Maryland’s Veteran of the Year for 2011 and the current chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission) and I are the hosts. The purpose of this show is to inform veterans about benefits and services available in our area. The show airs Tuesdays at 8 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. on Antietam Cable channel 6, and on a random basis throughout the weekend. You may view previous shows by clicking on featured videos on  

Fred and I will also share local veterans’ stories on “Through a Veteran’s Eye.”  Recently, I taped a show with Al Salter, a local historian and World War II veteran.  Al, a Navy veteran, related a compelling story about war in the Pacific Theater. His ship vacated a position on the line and was replaced by a sister ship that was destroyed in a subsequent Kamikaze attack. His story is one of grace — God’s grace. Al’s ship could have been the one destroyed.

The Library of Congress started a project several years ago to document and archive World War II veterans’ stories. Sadly, our World War II vets pass on at a rate of 1,000 per day. Many have never related their stories of heroism and sacrifice, or simply what it was like to serve this nation during that dreadful period when the world was turned upside down by global warfare. Other veterans from other eras have also not been afforded the opportunity to tell their stories.

The Frederick County (Md.) Public Library and some not-for-profit groups worked on the Library of Congress’ veterans’ stories project. The Frederick library has 12 Washington County veterans’ stories taped and archived. Fred and I want to expand that archive and tell more Washington County veterans’ stories.  So, in conjunction with the Washington County Free Library, we’re going to start a project to tape Washington County veterans stories here in Hagerstown.

We’ll share parts of some of those stories on “Through a Veteran’s Eye” and the stories we tape and archive will be available for future research as primary source documentation. Locally, our goal will be to document stories of veterans from all eras, up to and including veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Stories from veterans of all branches of service will be welcomed.

Hopefully, by the middle of November we’ll have a blog where we’ll provide detailed information to veterans, their families and friends. “Through a Veteran’s Eye” is an eight-minute show with a single show aired several times in a week’s period. That’s not much time for details, which is where the blog comes in.  Using the blog, Fred and I will be able to provide links to veterans’ stories and service organizations, as well as to veterans’ news and commentary. Also, veterans and their families or friends can contact us via the blog with questions or suggestions about information they may need or wish to read about or view on “Through a Veteran’s Eye.”

Fred and I also are planning to produce a documentary about Washington County veterans. Our plan is to run the documentary around Veterans Day and Memorial Day each year, and to refresh it annually with excerpts from the veterans’ stories we archive.

Watch this column and “Through a Veteran’s Eye” for more detailed information about the show, the blog, and information about taping and archiving veterans’ stories. 

On each episode of “Through a Veteran’s Eye,” we thank every veteran for their service and welcome each veteran home. During some periods of our nation’s history, those who served were not regarded in a positive light. I recall service members in uniform being spat upon and called “baby killers” and worse. Veterans from the Korean War era recall being forgotten.

You might dislike war, but I ask that you respect the men and women who protect your right to have that opinion and the freedom to express it. God bless our veterans!

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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