By Susan H. Hildreth Director, IMLS On Veteran’s Day, we take time to honor those who have served our country. We thank these men and women who defend our nation’s freedom. IMLS is proud to be involved with projects that serve veterans and tell their stories. Through IMLS funds administered through the Library Services and Technology Act, the California State Library is supporting two such projects. It’s been nearly 15 years since the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and many veterans return home to communities where few others are aware of their experience. For many the return home is a process that is fraught with alienation. War Ink, an online exhibit, launching on Veteran’s Day, will tell their stories in an authentic way. The virtual exhibit combines original video, photography, and audio interviews to present the stories of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in their own words. The entry point to the stories of the 24 featured veterans is “war ink,” tattoos that express the impact of combat experiences in a culture that typically shuns open discussion of emotion. The trailer presents a preview.
The project is a partnership between Contra Costa County Library and a collective of California’s major library systems. Senior Manager at Contra Costa County Library Chris Brown and Jason Deitch, a former Army medic and military sociologist, co-created the exhibit. Johann Wolf produced the photographs and Rebecca Murga, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, was the project filmmaker. With the growing population of veterans in California, the state library stepped in to meet the needs of the veteran community. Along with the California Department of Veteran Affairs (CalVet), the library opened four brand-new Veteran’s Resource Centers. The library staff who works at these Veterans Resource Centers is trained by CalVet to help veterans and their families reintegrate into the workforce and understand the federal and state benefits that are available to them. These benefits can help veterans achieve their education goals, receive healthcare, get job training, find employment, buy a home, and live out their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve. Other resources include collections of books, websites with links to local veterans’ resources, and computer and internet access to help complete job applications and enrollment forms for their benefits. Museums and libraries are seen as community anchors that are safe and trusted environments. Together, we can help make a positive impact on the quality of life for our veterans. Does your museum or library have a program for veterans? Please let us know how you are honoring our service members this Veteran’s Day.