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Those Who Serve: The Veterans Heritage Project

A program in Arizona is giving students the opportunities to hear and preserve veterans' stories.

PHOENIX - Oftentimes, stories from our older generation veterans go unheard. A program here in Arizona is working to change that.

“Our mission is to connect students with veterans, to honor veterans, preserve America’s heritage and develop future leaders," said Michelle DiMuro, Executive Director of Veterans Heritage Project.

Veterans Heritage Project is in middle schools, high schools and community colleges in Arizona and Illinois.

“The students will meet with their veteran, interview them and document their stories," said DiMuro.

Those stories are not only published in a yearly book, but also recorded on video and archived at the Library of Congress.

“This year we will have 1,824 veteran interviews archived there," said DiMuro.

This year’s theme is a salute to those who served in WWII.

“We have 331 veteran interviews this year," said DiMuro.

VHP student Melissa Satran had the opportunity to interview Air Force veteran and Gold Star Wives of America member Suzanna Ausborn.

“Freedom is definitely not free, and when you see someone who served and has had a loved one killed, it’s really eye opening," said Satran.

“It still brings tears to my eyes because she was able to grasp my history. People forget to tell their stories. This is so important because it’s written down and it will never be forgotten," said Ausborn.

VHP alumni Njideka Nnorom recalls her experience.

“It was interesting seeing war from their eyes and point of view. You don’t see or hear about that from a history book. What kept me in there was the fact that I was getting to know history," said Nnorom.

James Lednicky interviewed 11 veterans so far, and it inspired him to want to join the military in the future.

“Right now, I’m looking at doing the Marine detachment and becoming a Marine Officer," said Lednicky.

James claims this program is the most important part of high school.

“It’s that sense of purpose and the fulfillment of helping these veterans and preserve their history," said Lednicky.

Mike Burns is a Vietnam veteran and a Marine. Before VHP, his kids didn’t know much about his service.

“They knew a little about Vietnam, but we never discussed in length about what I did in Vietnam," said Burns.

Mike talks about how this not only helps the students develop life skills, but it also helps the veterans.

“Some have PTSD and other problems that would make it difficult, however speaking about it and relating their own personal experiences not only is it good for them but it’s good for the students with understanding what someone has gone through," said Burns.

Veterans Heritage Project is being recognized nationally this week with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Community Service Hero Award.

To get involved, visit www.veteransheritage.org.

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