A story by Karen L. Olson, M.D. from 2015
I’m not a veteran, but I had a part in making the Maine Historical Society (MHS) Veterans’ Stories project come to life. Since 2013 I’ve worked as a psychiatrist for the VA, which has afforded me the privilege of hearing veterans’ stories that range from painful and filled with anger, to funny, hopeful and full of camaraderie. Some of these stories have already been lost. One man told me of how his mother had sewn all his letters from Vietnam into her quilt so they could be close to her heart, but now the quilt is gone. Another man told me the letters from his mother had all rotted in the jungles of Vietnam.
With Vietnam veterans now in their mid sixties, I realized this is the time for them to tell their stories, find their photos, and have a place where they can be saved. This realization led me to MHS with an idea and a title on a 3x5 card, “Maine in Vietnam: Not to be Forgotten.” MHS took on the project, my family created a poster and supported the project’s evolution. The Togus VA sent posters to VA clinics and Veteran Centers around Maine. Colleagues in Saco and Portland enthusiastically put up posters and handed out fliers.
Over the next year the MHS expanded the idea, making the project one for all veterans. So it did not turn out as I’d originally imagined, it has become something bigger.
If you are a veteran, no matter what your role, in the US or abroad, tell your stories, bring your pictures, and let them live into the future.
My deep thanks goes to the MHS, to the Maine VA, and to my family. Together, they made an idea on a 3x5 card become reality.