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Veterans share experiences for oral history


June 24, 2010 at 1:24 a.m.

Korean War veteran Duane Cook, left, points out his portrait on the wall to fellow veteran Henry Alex at the Museum of the Coastal Bend at Victoria College on Thursday. Cook and other Korean War veterans came to the conference at Victoria College to discuss their war stories.

The war memories come easily to Duane Cook, a Korean War veteran who served in the Army during the conflict, but not painlessly.

"You remember all the details, this and that, and suddenly it becomes a nightmare," he said.

Cook will be interviewed this week as a part of the Korean War Conference oral history project. The project involves a handful of veterans and historians and runs concurrently with the this week's Korean War Conference at Victoria College.

"If we wait too long, a lot of those stories will get a way from us," said Joe Dahlstrom, director of libraries for the college and University of Houston-Victoria.

The interviews will last at least two hours and will focus on veterans' experiences, and - for local veterans - their experiences in Victoria, Dahlstrom said.

At the end of the project, the veterans will receive a copy of the audio recording. Dahlstrom hopes the recordings will be transcribed and used in future research projects.

"This is an excellent opportunity to get first hand accounts of the Korean War from the actual participants," he said.

The project will join a collection of local oral histories at the library that focus on everything from immigrant experiences to World War II veterans.

For Cook it's the first time he feels ready to talk.

"I dreamed about it for the first time in a long time," he said. "I want to tell it now. I want to get it over with."

Others aren't as ready.

"This happened 60 years ago and it's kind of hard," said Armando Aguilar, who served for three years in Korea. His voice broke and hands began to shake when he spoke.

"There's not too many good things that happened," he said.

Historians believe the oral histories are more important than written experiences because they share intimate details that often aren't otherwise recorded.

"We all experience history very differently," said Stephen Sloan, with the Baylor University Institute of Oral History. "Our written sources tend for favor more formal information but often the informal things are what's more important in our lives."



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