"You're losing a real direct connection to the sacrifices," said Tom Rust, a historian and director of the Honors Program at Montana State University-Billings.
"You're losing that personal understanding of what this time period meant."Rust
students have completed about 60 oral histories with World War II veterans and are in the final stages of preparing them for the public to enjoy and research.
The information that veterans have is not always easy to tap, especially the closer it is to the time of the war, Rust
said.Some veterans have experienced great traumas, and others are simply humble about their service, he
For those veterans who refuse to talk, sometimes a dialogue can be started with the straightforward approach of "Why don't you want to talk about it?"Rust
cautions, however, not to push too hard for information.
"In some ways, these people's experiences are very personal to them, and they don't want to share them," he
said."You have to respect them for that."
During the MSU-Billings oral history project, Rust
students started conversations with veterans by asking about their lives before the war, then moved on to how they transitioned into the military, their service and the transition back to civilian life, he
Of the veterans who gave their stories to the oral history project, Rust
estimated more than 70 percent were humble about their experiences - they thought they did a job - but they also hold strong feelings about war.
"War is a terrible, nasty, ugly thing, and we should not engage in it lightly," he
Without the firsthand insights of veterans, society can miss an important message, Rust