Volunteer Spotlight - Judith Kent (May 2004)
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two years ago, Judith Kent of Palm Coast, Fl. read an article
by Studs Turkel in the AARP magazine about an important national
effort created by the U.S. Congress to collect and preserve the
first-hand accounts of veterans. At the time, Ms. Kent was involved
with an oral history project supported by her local library --
the Flagler County Public Library -- to collect the histories
of “colorful” people
from their county.
“Flagler County has thousands of veterans and it seemed
like a perfect place to start the Veterans History Project,” recalls
Since then, Ms. Kent along with a number of other dedicated
volunteers have interviewed more than 25 veterans for the Library
of Congress’ Veterans History Project. “In the beginning,
we received some publicity with an article in the local paper
which created an overwhelming response of veterans who wanted
Judith Kent (right) interviews World
War II veteran, William
Ryan. Ryan served
in the Navy and now volunteers for the
Veterans History Project lending technical
taken in 1999.
Bill Ryan, another Flagler County Public Library volunteer and
webmaster provided the technical expertise needed to record the
stories digitally for the Veterans History Project. He organizes
the content and puts the interviews on CDs-- one CD for the veteran,
one for the local library and one to be sent to the American
Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where the Veterans
History Project is located.
The list of people signing-up to participate in the Veterans
History Project began to grow. A number of Library volunteers
were veterans themselves and they signed-up to be interviewed.
Anita Noad, a library staff member and author agreed to proof
read the transcripts. Mary Ann Clark, a library trustee and former
executive secretary transcribed Ms. Kent’s interviews.
Library Director, Doug Cisney gave his full support to the effort.
The Friends of the Library of Flagler County generously funded
the project, making it a regular item in their annual budget. “Then
through ‘word of mouth’ our list of veterans to be
interviewed and people wanting to record the stories started
to really take off. Veterans who were interviewed would suggest
other veterans,” said Kent.
The theme that Ms. Kent hears over and over is about “loyalty.”
Robert Granston is the most moving interview Ms. Kent has conducted.
Mr. Granston was a POW and had a gruesome experience but in the
interview he chose to focus on the friendships that he shared
with his comrades and the survival skills that enabled them to
endure over four years of captivity. In the interview, he shared
a letter he wrote to his sweetheart on his hospital ship returning
home. The letter read, ‘I’m free, I’m coming
home, I love you, I love you.”
“I want the veteran to feel very good about the experience
of recording his or her wartime memories. I want it to be a life
affirming experience for them. I believe the Project strengthens
family history as well as our nation’s history,” replied
Kent on the reason shehas been so involved with the Veterans
Ms. Kent is a retired psychiatric nurse and taught students
how to interview patients at the University of Miami. Many of
her students were involved with the VA hospital and Ms. Kent
knew a number of Vietnam, Korea and World War II veterans. She
reflected that her professional experience supported her interest
in the Veterans History Project.
Ms. Kent offered some advice to people interested in starting
their own Veterans History Project: “Look around because
volunteers out there with so much talent and who are so generous
with their time. And you can do a lot on a ‘shoe string’ budget.
Look to your local library for support and ask others to help.
People want to get involved.”
Ms. Kent serves as a Trustee to the Flagler County Public
Library and has been a volunteer for the Library of Congress'
Veterans History Project for more than two years. For information
the Flagler County Public Library go to www.flaglerlibrary.org.
To listen to an interview with Vietnam Army Nurse Rhonda Marie
Prescott conducted by Judith Kent, go to www.loc.gov/warstories.
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