Preserving the stories of Iowa's Afghanistan & Iraq War veterans - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Preserving the stories of Iowa's Afghanistan & Iraq War veterans

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A Waterloo museum is on a mission to gather, and store, the memories of hundreds of Iowa veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iowa legislature recently approved nearly $280,000 in funding for the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum to expand its Voices of Veterans project.

Currently, you can hear stories of more than 1,200 veterans -- most of whom served in World War II, Korea or Vietnam-- but museum historian Bob Neymeyer wants to add the oral histories of veterans from the Middle East to the collection.

Sergeant Matt Carter entered the United States Army after high school graduation and was going through basic training when two planes hit the World Trade Center.

"Within that day it went from 'This is going to be an easy four years.' to "Wow. We're actually going to have a war now'," said Carter.

He was among the first troops to hit the ground in Iraq, and returned from his second tour in 2006. An email sent home during that deployment is on display at the Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo. He's visited the museum a couple times, but lately he's more focused on his growing family.

"You think about it less and less, but it comes into my mind every day. It's a part of who I am," Carter explained.

Neymeyer is working to record his memories, and the memories of hundreds of soldiers, airmen, and marines who have served since 9/11.

"We want to capture those stories and those impressions so we can understand why they left family, friends, hometown and good jobs to be deployed two, three, four times in Iraq and Afghanistan... under a mission that sometimes was a bit difficult to understand," said Neymeyer.

State funding is providing the equipment, and manpower, to record and archive the stories, allowing Neymeyer "to do three to five hundred over the next year, fifteen months. A pretty ambitious project!"

Ambitious? Yes, but in Carter's eyes it's a valuable undertaking.

"Our World War I vets are gone. Our World War II veterans are disappearing. So to start to document the stories of veterans when they're young, when they're my age, is really important," said Carter.

The recordings will be available for anyone to watch. Neymeyer is hoping to take the project a step further -- where exactly won't be clear until the stories are told.

"It's one thing to have it in our archives. It's another to make good use of it. That's our responsibility, to make good use of it and get it out there," Neymeyer explained.

Carter is looking forward to recording his full story later this spring. He's honored that the museum pays tribute to those who fought in the past, and those who continue to fight for our country.

"I think that's really important that we realize: history is happening all the time. And stuff that happened three, four years ago is just as important as stuff that happened fifty years ago," Carter added.

Organizers will have cameras set up for anyone who wants to record an on-the-spot interview this weekend at the All Iowa Veterans Reunion. The event starts at 9:00 A.M. and runs through 5:00 PM.

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