Employee, grad collect stories of recent veterans


People remember the September, 11 2001 tragedy on September 11, 2009. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

By Iryna Dzyubynska

While the guts and glory of war stories attracts many to the silver screen, two men are hoping to give people a glimpse into the lives of soldiers beyond the battlefield.

Doug Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, along with Tyler Gayheart, a recent UK graduate and a veteran of the Afghanistan War, launched a new oral history project last week documenting the experiences of student veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Boyd and Gayheart have so far recorded video interviews of four UK student veterans. Originally Boyd thought of organizing a nationwide project, but then decided to make his focus more local.

“At first I did not know which direction to take the project in, with the lack of funding, and then it hit me that I should start on a smaller scale,” Boyd said, “With 350 student veterans at UK, some really great war stories can be collected.”

Ian Abney, a political science and Islamic studies major, served three tours in Iraq. In his video interview he discussed different explosive devices and different protections at various points of the Iraqi War.

“When we first got into Iraq, the (Improvised Explosive Devices) did not even have artillery shells on them,” Abney said.

Boyd said, however, the purpose of the project is not only to record the war stories of the veterans, but also to find out about their lives before military service and their transition after their war experience into higher education.

Boyd said the project is currently in its prototype phase. He plans to actively fundraise to expand the project to a statewide level, and record interviews of student veterans all over Kentucky as well as collect photos and other materials students have obtained during the war.

Gayheart served in the U.S. Marines from 2002-06 and served in Afghanistan in 2005. He said many student veterans are proud of their military service and wanted to put their stories into history books.

“I was surprised at how open and willing some of the veterans were to tell their stories,” Gayheart said. “For some of them it was their first time to share their experience.”

Boyd does not have an approximate date for the completion of the project. However, Boyd said these stories are an important part of war history which decades from now, people will look back on.

If you are an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran and would like to participate or receive more information on the Iraq and Afghanistan Project, contact the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at (859) 257-9672 or Tyler Gayheart at [email protected]