Eleven Minnesota military veterans will add their accounts of wartime service to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project with the help of Paradigm Court Reporting and Captioning. You can hear a profile of one them, Don Fernstrom of Maple Grove, in a new episode of Minnesota Sounds and Voices as part of All Things Considered.
Every year for four years, the Minneapolis firm donates time and people to gather the accounts. Company president Jan Ballman, president-elect of the National Court Reporters Foundation says the group has helped arrange recordings of thousands of accounts submitted to the Library of Congress.
The rapidly diminishing number of World War II veterans has prompted interviewers to focus attention on that group. But this year, the eleven interviewed by Paradigm volunteers also included veterans who served in Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf.
Sample some of the Library of Congress interviews online and as you’d expect, there is a wide range of stories and experiences including life and death wartime encounters. Many of the interviewers are volunteers. Some of the veterans are giving their accounts for the first time.
Don Fernstrom, a Minneapolis attorney, says when he returned from Vietnam in 1967 he was in turmoil for four years as he dealt with symptoms of PTSD, post traumatic stress syndrome. Fernstrom says people didn’t know much about the war and didn’t appear interested in his wartime experiences.
Forty years later, Fernstrom is back in touch with members of his artillery unit and says now, more people thank him for his service. It’s a departure from what he encountered on his return from Vietnam to a country deeply divided by the war.