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NESCom students make WWII history come alive

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(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Hope) (Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Hope)

BANGOR - A group of New England School of Communications (NESCom) students are preserving history for generations to come.

The public relations class at the Bangor college spent the spring recording the first-hand experiences of World War II veterans from Maine for the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center. Their one-on-one interviews with veterans Harold Beal, Norman Rossignol and Paul Wilbur will now be available for anyone to see, including the veterans' future family members.

'My goal was to do a journalism project the students could put on their resume. But what I didn't anticipate is they'd get this emotional attachment to history. It didn't occur to me that would happen,' explained instructor Jeffrey Hope.

Hannah Billings, whose father served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, interviewed 91-year-old Harold Beal of Southwest Harbor.

'The first time I spoke with him I wasn't expecting to hear the story I did. I teared up and he did as well,' said Billings. 'He struggled from horrible, horrible PTSD. I later found out that after he came home from Europe, he spent 14 years on a lobster truck so he wouldn't have to talk to his family about what he did. For me, it impacted me on a personal level and brought me back to my dad being gone.'

The students all had strict guidelines to follow when interviewing each veteran in order for their project to be accepted by the Library of Congress. For David Furtado, those guidelines helped him learn a better way of interviewing.

'The guidelines were perfect for the project and really perfect for us to learn about interviewing. They were looking for the personal experiences, personal accounts and the nitty gritty of what they saw, felt, heard and went through,' Furtado said.

Zach Hewins interviewed Norman Rossignol of Bangor. Hearing his story sparked a desire in Hewins to interview more veterans from other wars.

'There's so much I learned from him. One of the things he was involved with is Battle of the Bulge. In high school, they teach you a lot from the textbooks, but one thing you can't get from a textbook is that kind of emotional, personal feel from it when you interview someone who was there,' said Hewins. 'It was interesting to learn about the people he was able to meet, the German soldiers and French soldiers and the individual things that happened along the way.'

The students' project is still in the process of being uploaded onto the Library of Congress's website but is available for viewing now on NESCom's YouTube channel, NESCom Journalism.

'I think for the rest of their lives when someone says World War II, the students will think of the veteran [they interviewed] and not a movie they saw or something they read,' said Hope.

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