A home health care nurse in East Tennessee never realized her job would lead her to become a part time military historian.
"It's one thing to read it in a history book. But another to set here and experience it through someone's life," said Gail Johnson.
Ms. Johnson is talking about the life of Noah Howard. Now in his late eighties the self-described "Navy Man" is quick with a story and a laugh.
"When she found out about my story it knocked her off the chair. She said we've got to work on that," said Mr. Howard wearing a WWII cap and t-shirt and sitting in a chair at his kitchen table full of medals, pictures, in addition to other keepsakes form his military service.
Mr. Howard recalls seeing both the start of the ground war in World War II with the invasion in North Africa and almost five years later, the final offensive on the Japanese island of Okinawa. In between he bore witness to the bloody beach assault on Iwo Jima.
"I think people should know the things we went through during the wars to preserve our liberty and our country as it is today," said Mr. Howard.
To that end nurse Johnson sent away to the Library of Congress for a "Veterans History Project" packet. It offers step by step instructions in how to collect, record, and compile personal memories of a military veteran. Once the "field kit" checklist is complete, the finished product is then sent to the Library of Congress where it is cataloged and made available to, "...inspire future generations with these stories of service to our country," note the authors in the packet of materials they send to volunteers.
"This has been the most rewarding thing of my life," said Ms. Johnson with tears welling in her eyes.
For more on the Veterans History Project:
Log on: www.loc.gov/vets