Saturday, November 01, 2003


Monday, November 3, 2003
Last modified Monday, November 3, 2003 12:34 AM PST
Joanne Cargill videotapes interviews of veterans for a history project with the Library of Congress.///Scott de Freitas-Draper/Staff

Orcutt woman records war veterans' history

By Janene Scully/Staff Writer

Joanne Cargill believes every war veteran has a tale or two to tell.

That's why the Orcutt woman latched on to a Library of Congress project to record veterans' stories. So far, Cargill has interviewed three men for the Veterans History Project.

"It just fascinated me," Cargill, 61, said. "I love to talk to veterans, especially those who have war stories to tell ... They think they don't have a story to tell, but I think they all do."

With 19 million war veterans living in the United States today, death claims 1,500 of them daily, according to the project's Web site.

"Motivated by a desire to honor our nation's war veterans for their service and to collect their stories and experiences while they are still among us, the United States Congress created the Veterans History Project," the Web site says. The project began in 2000.

A retired social worker, Cargill discovered the Veterans History Project during an Internet search, but says a book "Flags of our Father" spurred on her participation. The author learned only after his father died that the man was one of the flag-raisers memorialized in the Iwo Jima monument.

She has conducted three interviews, and plans to keep going. Interviewed already were World War II veteran Herman Poltl and Pearl Harbor survivor Frank Palazzo, both living in the Santa Maria Valley. She also talked to Vietnam veteran Tim Haley from San Luis Obispo.

"I have no end of subjects," she said.

Not all want to participate, Cargill said. She asks but doesn't push hard, knowing some veterans don't like to talk about their experiences.

She tries to do one or two interviews a month, but has found them very time-consuming.

"After I send the interview in, they send a very nice letter to the veteran, thanking them for participating in it," said Cargill, who also received a similar letter of appreciation for her efforts.

According to the guidelines, tapes should not exceed 90 minutes. Cargill's have run 30 to 45 minutes. The U.S. Marine Corps League in San Luis Obispo asked Gargill to make copies of her tapes for their new military museum.

She hopes others follow her lead.

"I would like to see other people (volunteer to) do it," Cargill said. "Every day I read the obituaries and see maybe one or two guys who died in World War II and nobody's getting their stories. I can see students, or a video class, doing this kind of thing."

Cargill has one veteran close to home: Dewayne, her husband of 38 years. He served in the Vietnam War and retired as a first sergeant after 20 years in the Marine Corps.

"I guess that's why I have an affinity for this project," she said.

Although he had remained mum about this experiences until recently, he has agreed to let her interview him.

The History Project includes some sample questions to help spur on memories. Cargill said she chats to veterans first to help jog their memories.

"I always try to do a little bit of reading about what battle they were in, where they were, before I go talk to them so I don't ask stupid questions," she said.

Among questions she asks are how they dealt with stress and funny tales from their experiences.

"I tell them ahead of time, if I ask a question you don't want to answer, just say to me I don't want to go into that."

The Vietnam veteran she interviewed provided the most insight, she said. The San Luis Obispo man had just been through treatment for post traumatic stress disorder and was very verbal.

"I think I did these interviews because I love to hear the courage, how does a human being look at another person who is going to kill them.

"That to me was so powerful," she said, expressing amazement at the courage required for men to go into battle. "That still takes a certain amount of strength to do that. I find that fascinating that humans are able to do that."

For the Veterans History Project Web site go to HERE!!!!!. To reach Joanne Cargill, call 937-2465.

* Staff writer Janene Scully can be reached at 739-2214 or by e-mail at

Nov. 3, 2003

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