PPL upcoming display to honor local veterans, celebrate Library of Congress inclusion

By Kasie McCreary - [email protected]

PORTSMOUTH—from July 1 through July 30, the Portsmouth Public Library will celebrate local veterans with a display comprised of submitted photos from community members.

The “Honoring Local Veterans” display at the Portsmouth Public Library (PPL) will offer a unique chance for community members to submit photos of themselves or other veterans in their families to be viewed by the public.

Paige Williams, Director of the Portsmouth Public Library explained that this display relies strongly on community involvement and support of veterans.

“We are asking the community to bring in either your own picture if you’re a veteran or former veteran, or anyone in your family dating back to the Revolutionary War. If you could drop off a photo or email a photo to us, we are having a display upstairs to kick off July 1,” Williams explained at PPL’s most recent board meeting.

By submitting a photo, those participating in the display will help the military legacy of themselves or a loved one be publicly honored and appreciated. Special library programming tailored to the display’s theme will include an author visit as well as an extensive Civil War collection featuring artifacts which can be viewed by the public.

While this time of acknowledgment will honor local veterans and their service, it will also mark an exciting contribution that PPL has made to the Library of Congress.

“We are also [celebrating] the veteran’s interviews that the [PPL] and attorney John McHenry have done,” said Williams. “[They] have been formally accepted by the Library of Congress and will be added to their website. So now, local veterans are going to be displayed on the Library of Congress website.”

In a submitted press release, Williams credited the involvement of local attorney and US Army Veteran John McHenry as well as library employee and videographer Terry Stevenson to the successful inclusion of the interviews in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

“We are honored to be a part of such a prestigious national institution,” Williams said. “I have watched our little project grow from just a few to nearly 200 interviews. John and Terry have done a great job.”

McHenry said that his decision to conduct and record interviews with local veterans was initially inspired by a book authored by journalist Tom Brokaw entitled, “The Greatest Generation.” In one of the interviews Brokaw conducted with a World War II veteran, McHenry saw familiar elements of his own father’s story.

“There was a story in there about one of those veterans that was a little synonymous with my father. He was killed in the Second World War. There was a story in there that reminded me of his situation,” McHenry explained.

“Of course, I got to thinking, ‘we are losing these guys. We are losing [veterans] left and right, every day. It would be a good thing if we could preserve what we could preserve of them. That’s how it all started,” he added.

Initially, McHenry interviewed local veterans on VHS tapes which he purchased himself. After some time, McHenry stopped the interviews, but the subject was never far from his mind. When a few years passed, he resumed his mission to document the very human stories behind a diverse range of local veterans.

From local troops returning from Afghanistan to South Webster residents who once stormed the beaches at Normandy, McHenry had documented the interviews for years. He is a firm believer in the benefits of learning and preserving the history by those who lived it.

McHenry emailed the Library of Congress to see if they were interested in preserving the interviews. Back and forth, he worked with them to ensure that the interviews met their listed criteria.

It is McHenry’s hope that the display will allow the public to experience the history of these veterans in a way which engages their interest and appreciation.

“Ask somebody about history and they’ll say, ‘well, you have to open up a book,’” he said. “But when you have history sitting right across from you telling you, ‘I did this. I saw this. I was there when,’ that’s a different kind of history. It grabs you.”

McHenry hopes that the “Honoring Local Veterans” display, as well as the compiled interviews, offer perspective to local residents, as well as a deeper understanding and appreciation of our history.

“Think of yourself in the line at Kroger,” he said. “In front of you is some elderly person, behind you is some elderly person, and everything about them looks ordinary. But they may have done something in their life extraordinary. They may have walked across grass with a rifle. They may have climbed a mountain with a heavy pack. They may have lived in a steel tube beneath the sea. They may have swept themselves through the jungle. They may have burned up in the desert.”

“These are extraordinary things that ordinary people have done,” McHenry added. “And they’re right there in line at Kroger.”

For more information regarding community photo submissions for the display, visit the Portsmouth Public Library online at: yourppl.org. The “Honoring Local Veterans” display will open on July 1 and PPL’s themed programming will continue until July 30.

Copies of physical photographs can be dropped off at any library location and digital photos can be emailed to [email protected] or submitted online at www.yourppl.org. Please provide the veteran’s name, branch of the military, rank, and years of service. The library’s full program schedule will be released at a later date. For more information, call the Local History Department at 740-354-5304.

For veterans wishing to participate in the ongoing interview project, you may call the PPL at (740) 354-5688, or John McHenry at (740) 821-1381. “Regardless of peacetime, wartime, domestic or foreign service, all veterans are welcome and encouraged to participate,” the press release stated.

By Kasie McCreary

[email protected]

Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]

© 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]

© 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.