Who better to hear tales of wartime bravery from than soldiers themselves?
That was the thinking of 17-year-old Derek Copeland. The Philadelphia native has always been interested in military history — reading books on World War II and visiting battle sites from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as well as World War II memorials in Europe.
So when it came time for Copeland to choose a project to earn his Eagle Scout rank, military history was at the forefront of his mind. So he found one that related to it and also honored veterans at the same time.
Copeland organized volunteers to interview 17 veterans from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Recordings of the conversations will be donated to the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“Many my age and in my generation will not have opportunities to directly speak to these veterans and hear their stories first-hand, so I thought recordings would be a wonderful way preserve and hear them,” Copeland tells the Courier-Post. He said the vets’ stories were “moving” and “amazing.”
Copeland’s collected stories include an interview with 91-year-old John Lauriello, who was among the first Marines to land on Iwo Jima, and 64-year-old Richard Feldman, who volunteered for the military during the Vietnam War, informing families when a loved one had died overseas.
Maureen Harris, the spokeswoman of the Library of Congress, says, “We accept oral histories and receive audio and videotaped recordings from public and private donors, including Eagle Scouts, as well as original materials like letters, diaries and photographs.”
Eventually, the recordings will be archived for researchers to study.