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November 12, 2013

Telling Warren’s war stories

City to help Library of Congress document stories of vets

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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Telling Warren’s war stories
Dan Brightwell of the Southfield Veterans Commission interviewed Warren resident Sam Fittante Nov. 6 for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The city of Warren hosted the interview at TV Warren’s studio.

WARREN — Every veteran has a story. Those living in the city of Warren who haven’t already done so will get an opportunity to share theirs as part of an ongoing program through the Library of Congress.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Roseville, joined Warren Mayor Jim Fouts to announce the launch of Warren’s effort in support of the Veterans History Project.

Levin and Fouts were joined by Sam Fittante, of Warren, a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in World War II, and Dan Brightwell, of the Southfield Veterans Commission.

Brightwell has conducted 310 interviews for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress since 2008. Congress unanimously voted to create the project in 2000 as a means of preserving stories of individual service through first-hand accounts, diaries, memoirs and letters.

After a brief press conference Nov. 6, Brightwell conducted an hour-long interview with Fittante inside of TV Warren’s studio at the Warren Community Center. Fittante shared his story, from the day he graduated from high school in the Upper Peninsula’s mining country, to the “greetings from Uncle Sam” he said he received the Monday after graduation in 1944, and the months after when he was fighting in Europe with the mechanized reconnaissance troop of the U.S. Army’s 63rd Infantry Division.

Fittante, 89, told Brightwell about training in Illinois and Mississippi, traveling to New York by troop train, sailing for Europe on the USS Mount Vernon, the bitter fighting in France and Germany, and the wounds he sustained in combat. He described his experiences in emotional detail that will soon become part of a collection that already includes more than 85,000 stories of veterans.

“What I’ve gathered in conducting and overseeing the 310 interviews is that the veterans really appreciate the opportunity to tell their story. The family appreciates being able to listen to dad, granddad or grandma’s story,” Brightwell said. “This is an excellent project. I’m glad that Mr. Levin has been pushing it. It is first-hand history.”

Levin thanked Brightwell for his work on the project and stressed the importance of documenting the stories of all veterans.

“We don’t talk to each other enough. We don’t tell our stories,” Levin said.

Fouts, a retired high school government teacher, said “history comes alive” through the first-hand accounts.

“These first-hand accounts, once archived in the American Folklore Center for the Library of Congress, can serve as an inspiration for generations to come,” Fouts said.

The project is open to first-hand accounts from veterans of any U.S. war. Recollections from citizens who worked professionally to support the war effort are also accepted.

Warren Communications Director Lark Samouelian said the city would continue to seek veterans willing to share their stories on a regular basis. To inquire about a Warren veteran interview through TV Warren, call (586) 258-2000.

Anyone is welcome to submit veteran histories directly to the Veterans History Project by following Library of Congress guidelines. More information about the project, guidelines for compiling individual histories, tips for interviewing veterans and submission requirements are available online at www.loc.gov/vets/. A downloadable “field kit” is also available.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.