By Spc. Dalton Smith, 354th MPAD


PITTSBURGH – Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Approximately a dozen Pittsburgh-area veterans spent a recent Saturday doing their part to ensure their stories aren’t forgotten.

Soldiers from the 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment joined the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh to document their stories during an interview session at the Providence Point senior living center, Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb. 9.

The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Transmedia Oral History Initiative is a nonprofit agency dedicated to capturing, preserving and sharing stories of Pittsburgh area veterans through an array of audio, video, photographic, artistic and literary techniques across multiple media platforms.

To date, 243 local veterans have been interviewed, more than 172 hours of audio and video archived and more than 4,000 photographs have been taken by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh.

Todd DePastino, historian at Waynesburg University and Pittsburgh native, said the average citizen is surprised to hear live interviews from World War II veterans because the war is such a distant memory.

In early 2011, Kevin Farkas, a Navy veteran and co-founder of Voices of Pittsburgh, and Beaver County, Pa., native, began this mission to help local veterans capture and preserve their stories for their families.

“It enriches my own humanity being able to hear these stories about people who were called to duty,” said Farkas. “I truly appreciate being able to hear their stories.”

Along with Farkas, DePastino helps with new multimedia techniques to capture these stories, including video, photography and narrative historiography.

During one of the interviews, former Army Spc. Marshall Gordon, a Pittsburgh native, gave reasons why being in the military was one of the best paths he ever took. Learning discipline, how to delegate orders and knowing that every action taken can affect anyone.

Gordon was a secretary for the Headquarters Company of an ordinance depot in Mannheim, Germany, from 1954 through 1956. He assumed that being drafted during wartime meant he was going to Korea, but instead he was stationed in Germany for two years and did a totally different job.

“Most veterans are not war heroes, but they too once put their lives on the line to defend our nation. Their stories of service matter,” said Farkas.

Other veterans spoke about their life in the military during the interview sessions at the Providence Point.

DePastino said a little more than 100 veterans have been interviewed just within this past year. He continues to say that he, along with Farkas, hopes to interview another 500 by 2015.

“The interviews do remind me it was a great sacrifice during the age of the draft,” said DePastino. “That most guys were yanked out of their regular life for who knows how long and were not in control of their fate.”

“We have our freedom because of that,” said Jim Jamieson, a veteran and Pittsburgh native, “Everyone should do something because service is important and everyone will learn something.”

Numerous interviewed veterans shared in the belief of a certain sense of patriotism during World War II and the early 1950s toward military personnel for being able to support their country and defend it against all enemies.

“There comes an appreciation for preserving these stories because a lot of families did not record their grandfather’s stories. So hearing these stories preserved give people a warm feeling,” said Farkas. “These stories really remind people of the preciousness of life’s stories and how they can teach us about it.”

“These stories told today lets my Soldiers see the hardships earlier generations experienced during combat and compare it to their own experiences,” said Capt. David Zuzak, commander of the 354th MPAD.

“The training today provided them an opportunity to work with their equipment and forced them to process the information for a quality product that will be seen by the public and archived in The Library of Congress,” said Zuzak. “Training like this gives them the full-spectrum of what is expected from being a public affairs specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve.”