Over There and Back Here: Community History through the Diversity of the Veteran Experience in Florida

AHA Session 231
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Bryce Carpenter, US Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration
World War I through Florida Veterans
Amelia H. Lyons, University of Central Florida
Veterans and Florida Society: During War and Afterwards
Barbara A. Gannon, University of Central Florida
The Audience

Session Abstract

4,000,000 veterans are interred in 135 national cemeteries, each with an individual history that contributes to community histories. Under the Veterans Legacy Program, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration, faculty from the University of Central Florida engaged students in a project to research community history through the diversity of veterans interred at Florida National Cemetery.

The broader objective was to instill in students a sense of the impact on historial events that service members from their own state or hometown have contributed to directly, through a variety of methodologies and theoretical frameworks, i.e. that their own research can change how they see their own community's place in history. Hundreds of veterans' biographies were researched in order to create a broad mosaic of local personalities who left Florida to serve in uniform and then return to their communities in new roles. The experiences of veterans after their period of service changed with each generation and had an impact at the community level. While broader social trends of the last 100 years are not unknown, students in this project learned and applied various historical research methods in order to see how individuals of each period experienced those events.

There were several dimensions to this project. Some students focused on World War I veterans in commemoration of the centennial of the US's entry into that war. Some focused on issues of identity and how veteran status affected that. Some focused on this as an exercise in public history, seeking to make this research meaningful to broader consituencies. Some focused on developing this material into school-level lesson plans in partnership with area K-12 schools. Some focused on digital production and presentation of the collected materials.

The combined efforts of students in classes on World War I, digital humanities, historical methods, public history, and history teaching methods had immediate impact on the community, closing the gap between the undergraduate history classroom and community.

This session will share this model of faculty collaboration and student-focused research as a process that can be replicated where greater concert is sought among ncampus, K-12, local government, national agencies, and community members.

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