MOAA Surviving Spouse Interviews Servicemembers for Veterans History Project

MOAA Surviving Spouse Interviews Servicemembers for Veterans History Project
Patricia Tyson Redmond, right, is pictured in 2008 with Cpl. Frank Buckles, USA, the last surviving World War I veteran. (Courtesy photo)

By Contributing Editor Blair Drake


Nearly 20 years ago, Patricia Tyson Redmond answered a call for volunteers to interview veterans for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. Once she started, it quickly became her passion. To date, she has interviewed over 120 veterans, including five who served in World War I and 22 who served in World War II.


“I got so hooked on their stories,” she said. “Each one had a story, and they were always so humble about their experiences.”


redmond-kissing-sailor-internal.jpgThe list of veterans she has interviewed includes some well-known names: Cpl. Frank Buckles, USA, who was the last surviving World War I veteran; Col. Richard Cole, USAF, who served as the co-pilot to Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid; George Mendonsa, the “kissing sailor” in the famous V-J Day photo from Times Square (pictured with Redmond); and Army veteran Indiana Hunt-Martin, a member of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, which was the only African-American Women’s Army Corps unit to serve in Europe during World War II.


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She also interviewed her husband, Lt. Col. Robert A. Redmond, USA (Ret), a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., who went on to serve a 20-year career in the Army. The two met in 1970 while he was teaching at West Point. They had been married for 33 years when he died in 2007 of cancer from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.


Redmond does an audio recording of every interview, which she uses to create a transcript for the Veterans History Project. She gives a copy of the interview to the family of each veteran.


“Families are delighted,” she said. “It’s family history they might not have heard otherwise.”


She also has shared many of the interviews in her book, Words from the Heart: When America's Veterans Speak [Outskirts Press, 2011].


Redmond said she hopes the book will help teach more Americans about the military and the sacrifices servicemembers and their families make.


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“It’s wonderful to be able to pick up a book and read these stories. … It’s a good way to understand what the military does and why we live in a free country,” she said.


Redmond is also involved in numerous other veteran-related causes, including Wreaths Across America, Daughters of the American Revolution, and MOAA’s Upper Potomac (Md.) Chapter and Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter.


At age 80, she plans to continue to interviewing veterans. “It’s been such an honor,” she said. “And there are still a lot of veterans with stories to tell.”


Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.


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