MUNCIE, Ill. I11/10/2011) -- Ball State University staff members and history students honored 20 soldiers from the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade by inviting them to participate in the Cantigny 1st Infantry Division Oral History Project III. The university, located in Muncie, Indiana, conducted two previous projects, one in 2008 and the second in 2009.
4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade soldiers pose for a group photo at the onset of the Ball State University Cantigny 1st Infantry Division Oral History Project III, Nov. 7, 2011. BSU has been involved in recording the history of 1ID veterans and active duty soldiers to provide information since 2008, when the first project was completed. Courtesy Photo
Dr. Michael W. Doyle, the university's chief oral historian, is project director, and was also involved in the first two projects. Doyle selected a group of history students, allowed them several months to research and formulate a series of relevant questions, then coached their interviewing skills. The actual interviews took place at the university, Nov. 8.
The purpose for this endeavor is to record the personal and professional experiences of 1st ID soldiers who have been deployed to a combat zone, said Doyle. We dedicate long hours to record this history for the sake of posterity.
The university had several faculty involved in the project. Dr. Kevin Smith, chairman of the history department, says this session of the oral history project is different from the past two sessions. The previous groups of interviewees were either World War II or Vietnam veterans, said Smith. This is the first session where active duty makes up the entire panel which makes this iteration very exciting.
Thanks to Smith, a past participant was present at the project's introduction, allowing the 4th MEB soldiers the opportunity to meet and speak with him. John Mann is currently a local business owner, native of Centerville, Indiana, and a Vietnam veteran. As BSU alum, Mann was invited to be part of the first oral history project completed in 2008, and says the experience changed his life.
“I feel a lot better about my military service than I did having gone through this experience,” said Mann.
In 1968, Mann enlisted in the Army to become a commissioned officer. His tour in Vietnam was from Nov. 1969 to March 1970. A little more than a year later, in April 1971, he did not opt to extend his enlistment, and returned to civilian life.
The lack of acceptance for veterans and personal blame for the war by the American people was very disturbing, said Mann. His military service even prevented him from getting several jobs. It's nothing like it is today.
Having never been interviewed about his combat time before he was not completely sure about opening up when invited to join the project in 2008, said Mann. He now seeks out opportunities to tell his story and is grateful when he meets new people who were also in Vietnam.
The more he gave of himself and his past the better he felt, said Mann. He even took a class to become more knowledgeable about the politics of the Vietnam War. Regardless of what he learned in that class, it didn't change his mind about the patriotic cause he supported.
Patriotic causes continue to be supported by today's Army in many ways.
Participating soldiers from 4th MEB possess a vast array of military occupational specialties, and also have a wide range of years of service.
“It was a good experience,” said Sgt. 1st Class Albert Craven, platoon sergeant, Distribution Company, 193rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th MEB.
Craven has been in the Army more than 20 years.
Staff Sgt. Kevin Frantz, platoon sergeant, 512th Military Police Company, 92nd Military Police Battalion, 4th MEB, said the experience was interesting.
“I would do this again,” said Frantz.
Dr. Kevin Smith spoke of the project's importance and positive contribution to our society during the project reception.
“Becoming a historian is much more than just reading books,” said Smith.
The tradition of the 1st ID and BSU teaming up for the sake of military history will continue next year as another group of 4th MEB soldiers volunteer to be interviewed, while another project team of history students complete research. These two groups will then engage in the documentation of military history.
By Army Spc. Kelly Malone
4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article