Created in 2012, the Veterans Empathy Project (VEP) is an ongoing work in oral history focused on the experience of U.S. military personnel. We understand this experience to be multifaceted and idiosyncratic, meaning we are less interested in studying a monolithic military community commonly referred to as the troops and more interested in sharing the individual stories of the men and women who have worn the uniform. During each interview, project participants discuss their motivations for enlisting in the military, their experience serving in the military, and (if applicable) their transition from the military to the civilian community. Together, these interviews form a living history that makes clearer the motivations, experiences, rewards, and costs of military service. The Veterans Empathy Project is a collaborative effort. It is also meant to be interactive. The videotaped interviews—In Their Own Words—are searchable by subject and other keywords.
With civic engagement in mind, the project asks:
1. What are the primary motivations to join the U.S. Armed Forces?
2. Do those motivations include the experience of war?
3. Does military training carryover to civilian life?
4. What are the most important aspects of being in combat?
5. Who should be responsible for the nation’s defense?