Photo: Kelsey Schulz | The Telegraph
A veteran and student sign their names next to the story the student wrote about the veteran. Fourteen stories were published in a book that will be sent to the Library of Congress to be preserved for future generations.
Kelsey Schulz, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALTON — Marquette Catholic High School students recently once again took part in the Veterans Heritage Project (VHP) to tell the stories of veterans in the Riverbend area.
“This chapter of the Veterans Heritage Project started here about five years ago,” said Mary Rivera, an academic advisor at Marquette and chapter advisor for VHP.
“It started in Arizona prior to us and Marquette alumni, Barbara Hatch, got us started here at Marquette with the goal of preserving the stories of veterans in the Riverbend area,” said Rivera.
Students in VHP interview veterans and write their stories for a book that will be sent to the Library of Congress to be preserved for future generations. “What we do is, if we know a veteran or we advertise and they call us or we call them to set up an interview,” said Kathleen Botterbush, a senior at Marquette.
Botterbush is in her fourth year with VHP and has written her fifth story. “I’ve always supported veterans, and I fell in love with it immediately. It helped me find what I want to do in my future.” Botterbush said she plans on majoring in biomedical engineering to be an orthopedic surgeon or prosthesis with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I love seeing the closure they get from being interviewed,” she said. “For some of the veterans, this is the first time they have ever had a way to tell their story and it gives them peace.”
Rivera said a lot of the students really dedicate themselves to documenting the stories. “A lot of these students are in honor classes and have balanced a large workload while also interviewing the vets.”
Fred Delano, who served in Vietnam as a lab technician, said he was a little apprehensive at first when it came to being interviewed. “The experience was really great,” he said. “It was something that should have been done after WWII while everyone’s memories are fresh, but I met with Kathleen and told my story and it was painless.”
Alvin Roderfeld served in World War II. He said it was nice of the students to recognize veterans.
“You have to think about what you did and so much time goes by, you forget so much,” he said.
“Our goal is maybe one day to be able to write enough stories to do our own book just from the Riverbend area,” said Rivera. Most of the stories come from the VHP chapter in Arizona. “We are the only chapter in the area and it would be great to have enough stories to make our own book.”
A total of six veterans were honored at the first book signing held Tuesday afternoon, including: Delano, who served in Vietnam; Roderfeld, who served in WWII; Bill Meyer, who served in WWII; Chuck Ford, who served in Air Force and National Guard; Jim Baze, who served in the Navy in Vietnam; and Tom Taul, who served in Vietnam.
“We would love people to reach out to us,” said Rivera. “We have seven seniors graduating, but will have nine members looking for stories.”
Any veteran wishing to take part in the project can contact Mary Rivera.
Reach reporter Kelsey Schulz at 618-208-6452.