Sylvie Lubow is project coordinator with StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative
Related Story: StoryCorps In San Diego To Record Veteran's Stories
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Every Friday on morning edition, listeners hear personal stories about love, courage, adversity and the human condition on a segment called story court. The people telling those stories are friends, relatives, married couples, they asked each other's questions about the big issues and the major events in our lives. Now story corps is coming to San Diego with a special purpose. The military voices initiative wants to record, share and preserve the stories of recent veterans, servicemembers and their families. The project begins today at the USS Midway Museum and Sylvie Lubow with story course military voices initiative is here to tell us about it. And Sylvie, welcome to the program.
SYLVIE LUBOW: Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: give us a little background on story parts of how long has it been collecting stories?
SYLVIE LUBOW: The story Corps began in 2003. We are actually coming up on our 10th anniversary this October. And we have recorded somewhere around 45,000 stories.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: what is the purpose of collecting this kind of oral history. On the lives of ordinary Americans questioning
SYLVIE LUBOW: I think it really means something different to everyone. But, the purpose is to really sit down with someone that you love and have a meaningful conversation and it's also to preserve that conversation for generations to come.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: you know, we used to hear about these thingswhere archivists would go to various parts of the country and record people who had certain dialects, or who were in a special community in some way. Is this where this idea originated in those archivists who wanted to go around and capture things before they became lost?
SYLVIE LUBOW: We definitely have influences from the WPA. And our founder and director Dave (Isay) was a radio documentarian. And I think he really believed in preserving the extraordinary in the ordinary.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: that is a nice way to put it. Why are you launching a special project for military veterans?
SYLVIE LUBOW: So this initiative, the military voices initiative is geared toward recording, preserving and sharing the stories of veterans, servicemembers and military families. We have a unique focus on the post-9/11 generation. And we really brought this initiative into the forefront because we wanted to close the gap between the military community and between civilians. So the military community knows well the challenges of multiple deployments, of combat injuries and long-awaited homecomings. But, civilians do not understand, or to few civilians understand the complex realities of our troops service and sacrifice. So what MVI is really hoping to do is hoping to amplify these important stories and hoping to it servicemembers know that we as a nation are listening.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And NPI is the military voices initiative story Corps project that we are talking about right now. Through the years story Corps has documented stories from many people in the military, many veterans. I'd like to play a story corps segment that features a mother and a daughter. Can you tell us so we will be hearing?
SYLVIE LUBOW: Right now you will be hearing from Sgt. Marilyn Gonzalez and her daughter specialist Jessica Pedraza, both served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. In 2010 Marilyn received orders to deploy and when Jessica found out her mother was about to deploy, she changed her job so she could go to war with her mom.
NEW SPEAKER: When you told me that you wanted to deploy I was so angry
NEW SPEAKER: I could be the person who had to stay home and worry about you being away. I couldn't do it. And whenever I would go out on a mission, you would go in my room and make my bed, and sometimes you would come back from your missions and catch me sleeping on your back.
NEW SPEAKER: I hope you know they used to tease me, but it was hard not to be mom. Every time I wanted to I saw you I wanted to go up and hug you and I couldn't do it.
NEW SPEAKER: I just remember I was had to sneak in kiss you on the cheek and rent, mom, I love you.
NEW SPEAKER: Like the day you set it on the radioactive
NEW SPEAKER: I said Roger, I love you and some uninterrupted and they said none of that over the radio and I just remember hearing you say it back.
NEW SPEAKER: Wanted to tell you that are willing to put your life on the line to be with me I can never tell you how much it means to me.
NEW SPEAKER: I know in a way you're kind of upset by the way I chose to do what I did and give up six college acceptances that I had to do this with you. But I think that we have a mother and daughter bond and we have a soldiers bond, there's nothing more you can ask for.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The story from two veterans on story core and I'm speaking with Sylvie Lubow with story courses initiative you know most of the segments that I've heard tend to be emotional moments for the participants and actually for the listeners as well. They are interesting stories but they can't really jampacked with emotion. Why do you think that is?
SYLVIE LUBOW: Well, I think that when you are sitting across from someone that you know and you care about there is a rich emotional dynamics that is already there. And we found that people are really open and honest inside of our recording spaces. And in those 3 min. we really are trying to capture the emotional moments, you know, the true honest moments of happening inside that space. And after Jessica and Marilyn recorded their interview, they went back in the car and listen to it, and I think it even sparked more of a dialogue between them.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does the recording actually work? Are the participants alone in a recording both?
SYLVIE LUBOW: So it is two participants in the recording booth, then we have story core facilitators. So they are primarily there inside of the space to be the audio technicians but they are also there to really orient the participants to the experience. They might chime in with a question or two especially if participants are finding it hard to keep the story going and they really make the tone of the whole experience very comfortable and relaxed for the participants that are there. So again, to participants in one facilitator who is in the room.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: and from what you just said it sounds as if the people who do tell their stories get a recording of it, is that right?
SYLVIE LUBOW: That's exactly right so at the end of every story Corps interview a participant. It's a copy of the recording and with their permission another copy goes to the Library of Congress.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What will the setup be like at the Midway Museum for this particular initiative here in San Diego?
SYLVIE LUBOW: So we're doing something really special for our set up in San Diego. We are actually taking one of our old airstream trailers, so it is a big aluminum boxlike structure and we are parking it right in front of the USS Midway Museum which as you know is a pretty iconic site in San Diego within the military community. So we are parking in in the parking lot and the airstream trailer is fitted with a recording studio some people actually come inside the trailer, sit down, have a conversation for 40 min., then they get two free tickets to the Midway Museum which is also really nice.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, can people, long to tell their stories, or do they need to bring someone? Would they be able to tell their stories just to the facilitator?
SYLVIE LUBOW: What we really encourage is that people come together, because again having that dynamic makes a really big difference in the types of stories that are told and in the comfort level of the participants themselves. We have had people come in alone. Especially those who are sharing remembrances, sometimes the preference is to share the remembrance with a facilitator. So, yes it's possible for people to come along, but again we think the true story core experience is enhanced when this with two people who know each other.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, every Friday we hear a selection from story Corps and as you say it is about 3 min. in length give or take. But, you surprise me. People who go into the booth actually have 40 min., that's quite a bit of time.
SYLVIE LUBOW: It is quite a bit of time. And we've got all kinds of reactions. People who think they will not be able to fill the 40 min. and are shocked when you know, the facilitator gives them the five-minute warning sign, then we've had people who have said oh, that was quite a bit longer than I thought. So I think it is really about how you are telling the story in there, and if you come in prepared, that actually makes a big difference. So if you come in maybe with three or four questions ahead of time thinking about some of those themes and memories that you want to share, I think that it has, helps guide the conversation a little bit more.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's listen to another story that's already played on story core, it involves the veteran from a past war, 85-year-old Rubin (inaudible) spoke to his friend Bill Evans in this story corps segment.
NEW SPEAKER: So you were born in Chicago?
NEW SPEAKER: In Chicago
NEW SPEAKER: What happened when you were deported to Mexico?
NEW SPEAKER: When I was deported what I remember is the way the agents crashed into the house, okay people, line up against the wall. We were put into the trucks, taken to the train station and shipped out. I grew up when that happened from six years old, all of a sudden I felt like I was 15.
NEW SPEAKER: You had been to Mexico before that
NEW SPEAKER: Never, I could speak a few and English, but not Spanish.
NEW SPEAKER: How did you return to the US, how did you come back here?
NEW SPEAKER: I was an American citizen so in 1945 I was drafted into the Army. My father explained to me, he says you've got John and Carter in Chicago to join the United States Army, you are going back to your country. So I took the bus to the United States, stopped in Laredo before we took off for Chicago. And I ask the bus driver, where is the washroom, sir, and he said right around the corner, so I go around the corner and I see a big sign, no Mexicans or dogs were allowed. And I said, welcome back. You know, is a funny thing because when I talk about it you know it looks like yesterday. Those things, you never get rid of that.
NEW SPEAKER: How do you want to be remembered, Rubin?
NEW SPEAKER: I want to be remembered as somebody who got hurt by his country, came back to the country and is going to die in this country.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Another story corps segment involving a veteran and Sylvie, that's a veteran from a past war, as I said. It sounds as if when we listen to story corps stories that a lot of people who have been keeping these stories bottled inside them for quite some time.
SYLVIE LUBOW: Yeah, we've had quite a few folks who have come in and after they've recorded have let the facilitators know that this is the first time they are sharing something like that, that they are sharing the story. And I think, again, what is important is that we are here ready to listen. And that is really what NPI is all about. Giving people the space, giving veteran service members military families the space to sit down and talk to someone.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now I understand that in this project you are opening the things, your facilities to veterans of all kinds, but you are especially looking for stories of recent veterans and military voices project. Are you hoping to record these memories while they are fresh?
SYLVIE LUBOW: Yes, that's definitely part of our focus on the post-9/11 generation. Though we are opening our appointments to all veterans. We really want to honor all of their stories.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think you've given people a really good feeling for this, so if they are interested in participating, they should think about, they should find someone to talk with, they should think about what kinds of questions they are going to ask. They know that they are in for a conversation that can last as long as 40 min. So, how does someone become a participant? How do you sign up for the project?
SYLVIE LUBOW: So if you are interested in making a reservation, all you have to do is call one 800, 850, 4406. Or, you can e-mail MVI@storycore.org.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you can also find those numbers on our website at KPBS.org. I want to let everyone know that the story corps mobile booth which Sylvie told us is an airstream trailer outfitted with a recording studio will be parked outside of the USS Midway Museum from June 3 to the 22nd. And I've been speaking with Sylvie Lubow of the story corps military voices initiative. Sylvie, thank you so much.
SYLVIE LUBOW: Thank you, Maureen.