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UT Arlington launches digital humanities project to document oral history of military veterans and their families

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Friday, February 22, 2013

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Media Contact: Bridget Lewis, Office:817-272-3317, Cell:214-577-9094, blewis@uta.edu

News Topics: humanities, Internet, liberal arts

The University of Texas at Arlington will highlight the experiences of veterans and their loved ones through a new digital humanities project called Maverick Veterans’ Voices.

Kimberly van Noort

Kimberly van Noort

“There isn’t a lot of attention given to veterans’ family members as a primary source of documentation,” said Kimberly van Noort, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and architect of the oral history project. “But if we can get a soldier’s wife, widow, or adult children to talk to us about the challenges they’ve faced – then this can really be something special.”

Van Noort added: “Eventually, we want to create a repository that will not only allow people to go online and listen to these oral histories and celebrations of military service, but they will also be transcribed and accessible to scholars doing research.”

The Maverick Veterans’ Voices Project will launch Sunday, Feb. 24, when the 110th Maverick Battalion and the Cadet Corps Alumni Council host the 33rd Military Science Hall of Honor ceremony in the E.H. Hereford University Center’s Bluebonnet Ballroom. Alumni Archie Davis III and Al Ellis will be inducted into the Hall of Honor during the event.

Davis was the first African American to serve as Cadet Corps commander. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1986.

In 2004 he joined the 336th Theater Finance Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. At Fort Hood in 2006, he served as deputy commander of the 1st Calvary Division and later as the commander of the 13th Financial Management Center. He retired in September 2012.

Davis is now civilian director of financial and recourse management and assistant chief of staff of the Army Operational Test Command at Fort Hood.

Ellis commanded the Sam Houston Rifles and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1965. He served in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam before leaving the Army in 1969 to pursue a law career.

He is a senior adviser for Sommerman & Quesada, L.L.P. in Dallas. Named a Top Lawyer by several publications, he is a 2011 recipient of UT Arlington’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Ellis has helped build more than 100 homes for Habitat for Humanity and has been honored for community service and law education.

Along with Davis and Ellis, four to six other alumni in attendance at the event will be interviewed for the Maverick Veterans’ Voices Project. In addition to military life, they will be asked specific questions about their time as undergraduates at UT Arlington.

“Response from alums has already been overwhelming with people wanting to participate,” Van Noort said. “But our attention will focus first on people coming to the ceremony from out of state. Later we will focus on local alums.”

Funding is still needed for such things as staff and equipment, but Van Noort already has support from colleagues across disciplines. The UT Arlington Library will transcribe the interviews that will eventually be digitized and made available to the public online. The Department of Arts and Fine Arts will help with post-editing.

Alexa Smith-Osborne, associate professor in the School of Social Work and principle investigator of the school’s Student Veteran Project, has consulted on the Maverick Veterans’ Voices Project. She said projects like this are significant because many Americans are not personally aware of the needs and experiences of service members’ parents, siblings, adult children, wives, partners and widows.

“The reality of military service is that service members’ families serve their country in a complementary fashion to the service member herself or himself,” Smith-Osborne said.

“As a society, in addition to making informed policy decisions affecting military and veterans, we can help support these military families by paying attention and providing them with outlets and opportunities to be heard like Maverick Veterans’ Voices.”

For both Smith-Osborne and Van Noort, the project strikes a personal chord.

Smith-Osborne is a self-described ‘army brat’ whose research involves soldiers and veterans’ mental health. Van Noort’s in-laws were both enlisted in the Navy during World War II and now her father-in-law suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

“He’s part of a generation that has memories that should be recorded in their own words,” she said. “And it should be done before it’s too late.”

For more information about the Maverick Veterans’ Voices Project, email Kimberly van Noort at vannoort@uta.edu or call 817-272-3291.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.