Stories Of Service – A Website For Veterans and Their Communities

Dorothy Workman, from the documentary Bridgeport to Baghdad

At West Virginia Public Broadcasting, we know about the power of storytelling – it’s what we do. 

We’ve been telling the stories of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through news reports and documentaries since 2001, when the first soldier killed in Afghanistan worked in a bike shop in Morgantown.  

When PBS started their web site, “Stories of Service,” to tell the stories of US military veterans, we knew we wanted to be part of their national initiative.  On Veterans Day, we’re launching our own Stories of Service Website.

“We wanted a site that showcases all the material we produce about West Virginians who have served – whether it is our award-winning documentaries or our outstanding radio stories,” says Scott Finn, Executive Director or West Virginia Public Broadcasting. 

Viewers can access the extensive line-up of national documentaries, specials and original digital content directly from the site.  There are personal accounts of service told from the perspective of men and women who have served, such as “Iwo Jima:  from Combat to Comrades,” as survivors of the WWII battle return to honor the fallen.  There are also histories of courage, sacrifice and service from our past, and investigative reports through the lenses of journalists.

What we’re most proud of is that you can watch our documentaries about West Virginians who have served or read news reports.  Now available online, “West Virginians in War,” a two-hour film by Russ Barbour, examines why Mountaineers are among the first to volunteer for wartime service.

Viewers can also read or listen to our news articles, such as one by Jesse Wright, about a Dutch man who has cared for a West Virginian soldier’s grave since he was 13.

James Wickline

Credit Photo courtesy of Maarten Vossen

The Stories of Service homepage introduces The War in My Words, and upcoming web site and mobile application.  It will allow veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to use their phones to video or audio record their stories.

“We want to create an online community of vets to share their stories with each other and to communicate their war experience with the public,” said Mark Combs, assistant producer for the project and a combat vet of the Iraq surge. “These aren’t the stories you would tell your Mom and Dad.”  Mark is a veteran of the 1st Infantry Division, having served as a vehicle machine gunner during the surge in Baghdad in 2007.

The application is being developed with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “This funding will put a storytelling tool in the hands of our vets, allowing them to directly share their experiences,” said Chip Hitchcock, the project’s producer.  “It will also have a messaging system to build a cyber community.  Most of our state is rural, and vets frequently experience a sense of isolation.”