Local college professor launches website for veterans to share their stories

BOSTON — Veterans Day is a time when the nation stops and remembers the men and women who have served our country. But a local college professor wants people to think about that sacrifice every day.

Wheaton College history professor Anni Cecil has launched a new website to help people learn more about what life is really like for military personnel and their families.

For veterans like U.S Marine Leo Entwistle, serving in the military is much different today than it was when he enlisted. "I used to say that the Marine Corps got their monthly quota from South Boston," Entwistle said, "because we had four guys on my street that were in the Marine Corps."

That was a common scenario before the draft was phased out in 1973.

Now, less than 1% of the population is in the service, and the gap between military and civilian life has been growing wider.

That's why Cecil is asking for military families "to share their experiences, to share their memories, to share their stories." She hopes her team can assemble a collection of people's memories, ranging from short anecdotes to longer life histories.

Cecil hopes making that kind of information easily available can build a bridge. "Some historians and other scholars have expressed concern over the growing distance between military society and the civilian world, and the sort of lack of understanding and the potential implications for that in terms of politics, in terms of social expectations, values, in terms of civilian support."

So far, there are descriptions of life on a base in Germany, housing at Fort Bliss, and a visit from former First Lady Michelle Obama.

"I hope that some historian in the future uses this material to write a fabulous book about military life in the early 21st century, during the Cold War, during the period of time I've collected things," Cecil said. "I hope other people are going to use it."

It might also be an opportunity for someone like Entwistle to share his secret of surviving Parris Island. "I think 12 years of parochial school really helped me," Entwistle said. "Instead of 'Yes, Sister,' it became 'Yes Sir.'"

Cecil is stressing she wants to hear from families, as well as soldiers, to get a complete picture of military life.