Visitors got a peek at the product of the Veterans History Project at a ceremony in Columbia

The state couldn’t afford a project aiming to capture the memories of veterans, so a number of people and organizations came together to give the project new life.

The state was slated to pay half a million dollars to a private company to video tape veterans telling stories of their exploits in war. State Representative Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur says it’s possible the idea could have ended on the cutting room floor.

“I think that probably often happens and for some reason this just struck a chord with me. I think partly because I felt a responsibility serving on that committee that was looking at those dollars, thinking, gosh the state needs those dollars for something else,” Schupp said. “As we’re looking to cut left and right, how could we possibly continue to do this with state funds? This seemed like something to me that logically could move to the University and that there might be other organizations that would get involved.”

Rep. Schupp (at the podium) brings on stage representatives of the groups that contributed to the project

That hunch was right. The University of Missouri and Columbia College have each agreed to create a class where students will get credit for producing the videos. She thinks this will be a great arrangement that will also be rewarding for students in another way.

“To make some of this history that they might have studied that doesn’t seem real or seems so distant, to know somebody who was really involved in making that history and lived through some experiences that frankly they have no knowledge of. I think it works both ways, I think the veterans will learn a lot from the students too,” Schupp said.

Schupp has received support from veterans groups and other private companies that will all work together to make the Veterans History Project a reality. For instance, a company called Midwest Litigation donated the time of their typists, who will transcribe the interviews, and the company will also put the transcriptions on the video.

Before the ceremony, the University carried out its tradition of laying a wreath under the archway at Memorial Union, which was originally built to honor students who died in World War I

“We’ll go to veteran’s homes, we’ll do a huge outreach campaign and ask people to get involved and tell their stories. We of course don’t want to do that until we have people trained and in place to produce; to record the videos and actually do the interviewing,” Schupp said.

She says in addition to the students helping with the project, she also wants to get other volunteers involved.

“Our hope is that if we can find people throughout the state that will go out into whatever communities we have volunteers available. Because as we know, veterans live all over Missouri,” Schupp said.

She says people that are interested should contact them at (573) 751-9762.

The project was officially announced on Veterans Day 2010 at a ceremony at the University of Missouri. Schupp says a copy of all the interviews will be sent to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and to the Missouri Archives. The veterans’ families will also get a transcription of the interviews.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]

Another view of the wreath laying ceremony