Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
In 2000, the U.S. Congress created the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress to “collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war,” according to https://www.loc.gov/vets/.
On May 31, 2019, the collection of personal accounts became 14 interviews richer when Scout Jonas Ross hand-delivered his completed video-taped interviews. The month-long project, which came to about 90 hours of work, led to Ross’ promotion to Eagle Scout during a Court of Honor ceremony Jan. 10 in the atrium of the Lewis and Clark Center.
“I knew there were a bunch of projects by Eagle Scouts, and they just kind of build things,” Ross said. “I thought I’d do something different and this project was about preserving history and something that would last a lot longer than just a small monument or shed or something.
“I find that our nation, as we keep growing up, needs to learn about what the older people feel, the older generations, their wisdom about how to move the country forward and how they experience things, how they would do things,” he said. “I feel like that would be the best way to learn how to keep our country strong.”
Eagle Scout is the highest achievable rank in the Scouts BSA program. Since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Scouts have earned the rank.
“‘Eagle Scout’ is not just an award; it is a state of being,” according to the Scouts BSA official website. “Those who earned is as youth continue to earn it every day as adults. That is why an Eagle Scout is an Eagle Scout — not was.”
Ross said he started his project April 21, 2019, by sitting down with his grandfather, Vietnam veteran Larry Ross.
“When I was younger, I used to talk to him a lot about his time in the Vietnam War and I thought, ‘Wow, that must have been really cool,’” Ross said. “Of course, now that I know more, it wasn’t that good back then, but I thought I would get to know more about this story … and thought I’d talk to him and talk more about it and see if he’d be interested in it.”
Marine Corps Maj. Larry Ross enlisted in 1960 and served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969 as an infantry company commander with the 1st Marine Division.
Upon returning from Vietnam, Ross served 11 more years at several Marine Corps posts including, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Parris Island, S.C.; Quantico, Va.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Okinawa, Japan; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Larry Ross said he was proud of his grandson for the work that he did on the project.
“I think it is a wonderful project to get the opinions and stories of veterans’ experience over there in that conflict. It was a terrible war,” Larry Ross said. “Here we had been taught conventional warfare, tanks, artillery and all, but here we were thrown into a guerrilla-type environment with jungles, and we had to really adapt and it was quite a change.
“I think (the Veterans History Project) is great,” he said. “Future generations will know the stories and history of what occurred in these wars.”
After interviewing his grandfather, Ross, with the help of Scout volunteers, gathered stories from the 13 other veterans who ranged from Vietnam, the Cold War, the Korean War, Desert Storm and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. They included family friends and Ross’ instructors at Leavenworth High School. Seven attended the Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony.
Randy Klinger, Vietnam War veteran, was one of the veterans who attended. He served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1971 to 1992 before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
“I thought (Ross’s) project was very important,” Klinger said. “Most people don’t really capture actual history or actual stories from people. People write a lot of history, but they don’t necessarily actually capture it from the people that have experienced it.”
During the ceremony, Ross recognized the seven veterans he interviewed who attended.
“Doing this really taught me a lot about what actually being in the military is like and to go to war and, basically, experiencing what it is,” Ross said. “Them telling me what it is like is truly an experience I will never forget.”
His project was named the Boy Scouts of America Kaw District’s Eagle Scout project of the year.
The Veterans History Project contains first-hand accounts of U.S. veterans ranging from World War I (1914-1918) to the Iraq War (2003-2011).
For more information about the Veterans History Project, visit https://www.loc.gov/vets/.
For more information about Scouts BSA and the Eagle Scout rank, visit scouting.org.