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Capturing the oral history of today's vets

WASHINGTON - For those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, history is already calling.

Unlike wars past, decades won't go by before today's generation of veterans are asked to share their stories. Still in the midst of the longest period of fighting in American history, a new project launching this week is set to capture and share the tales of war from the last 11 years.

StoryCorps, a national non-profit oral history project that is partnered with the Library of Congress and can be heard weekly on NPR, is hoping to record nearly 2,000 veterans, active-duty servicemembers and their families for the Military Voices Initiative. Over the next year, the nonprofit, along with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Veterans History Project, will collect about 700 stories.

The format is simple: A veteran sits down with someone, perhaps his wife or a battle buddy, and has a conversation about something he experienced at war or after coming home.

"This is a serious way for veterans to tell their stories and pass them on from generation to generation," Bob Patrick, head of the Veterans History Project, said.

These wartime memories serve not just as a record of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay said, but are also a way to recognize "our shared humanity and the importance of listening" - something particularly key in an age of civilian disconnect with the military.

Some of the stories will be broadcast on NPR's Weekend Edition, and all of them will be preserved in the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress.

Spc. Justin Cliburn recorded a session telling his wife about the bond he developed with two Iraqi children before tragedy struck. He said on Monday that he knows the history books will tell of the battles, but this initiative, he's grateful, "will tell the stories I care about."

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