The Chronicle’s View

Barry Lopez, an American essayist and international traveler, once said that, ?Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.?

The University of Utah American West Center is, impressively, doing both.

Their expansive story gathering efforts began the ?60s, when the center began collecting oral histories from American Indians. Now, the center is collecting the stories of World War II veterans.

Recording and transcribing these stories is not an easy task, but the interviewer?s time and energy investments will be a lasting tribute to a generation whose stories are in danger of being forgotten.

The Center?s efforts honor both the veterans themselves and the family and friends of those who endured through one of the most challenging times in American history.

The individual experience of every veteran?whether they struggled on the front lines, facing enemy fire, or worked relentlessly behind the scenes?is incredibly valuable.

As surviving WWII veterans become older, the need to keep their legacy alive becomes more and more urgent. Through the generations, memories fall away on the roadside. The Center?s project will, more than adequately, preserve those memories.

With a new war on America?s horizon, there is much that we can garner from the veterans? stories?that we are not the first to face terror, and we are not the first to face fear. These stories also assure us that life moves on?that these veterans have confronted fear, overcome it and continued on.

When most accounts of war now come to us in 30-second visual nutshells, the stories of these Utah veterans are unedited, unprocessed pieces of life.

And even if you don?t support the images of war you see on television today, the shadows of conflict and turmoil remain. Show compassion. To learn from the veterans? stories and to honor those individuals who sacrificed, creating their own memories, is a vital element in ?holding together.?

The American West Center is boldly continuing on their mission. The interviewers have collected more than 200 stories. And, rightly, they will not cease their efforts until they gather every story from willing veterans.

When completed, the compiled interviews will reside in the Marriott Library.

This location provides an invaluable opportunity, not just for family members, but also for community and university members, to learn from the lives of those who preceded them and to keep the memories from falling by the roadside .

Thanks to the America West Center, members of the U community will inherit a priceless piece of enduring history.