The Veterans History Project was established in 2001 by the Library of Congress. The government is collecting oral histories, letters, diaries and other artifacts from veterans.
Irene Rios is at the University of Houston to share her husband’s story. Arturo Rios was a Vietnam veteran. He died almost two years ago of complications from exposure to Agent Orange.
“He mentioned about the heat, the oppressive heat. He said ‘and then when it rained, it rained like it was you know, like you were drowning in it.’ And he said people didn’t tell you but there were tigers and there were snakes and there were — I remember he said there was a two-step snake. Once it bit you, in two steps you were dead. So he told me so many stories.”
Rios met her husband shortly after he returned from Vietnam. She says he was only there for a year, but the experience completely changed his life.
“That one year, like I said, when you see him in the photographs in the beginning you see how young and how happy he is and how he’s all for Uncle Sam and all of that. By the end of the war, you see how devastated, how worn out, he’s lost hair. So the war is over, it’s been over for 30-plus years, but the night sweats really never went away. They’d come and go. The nightmares…”
These are the stories Rios says she has to tell for her husband.
University of Houston Assistant Professor Craig Crowe says a lot of the veterans coming in served in WWII. He sees it as an opportunity for his students to learn from the silent generation.
“It was all about serving the country and once you were done you went back to your normal life and didn’t talk much about what you did. And this gives them an opportunity to reflect on the value that they contributed to our country. As well as the students learning the importance of what the military, I think, is all about.”
Houston has the highest concentration of veterans in the nation. Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.