Veteran's Oral History

In 2016, Altrusa of Gainesville installed a monument at Altrusa House honoring veterans.  Many of Altrusa House’s members are veterans and are referred to Altrusa House by the Veterans’ Association.

Nancy Hult is an active volunteer with Altrusa House and hosts several activities during the week.  She was moved by how the Altrusa House veterans responded to the monument and was motivated to do more.  Nancy was inspired by the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and started working with Ray Jones, a retired UF librarian and veteran, to develop the Altrusa House Veterans Oral History Project in 2017.

Many Altrusa House members suffer with dementia, so Nancy and Ray designed their own procedures for interviewing Altrusa House members in 30-minute interviews.  Altrusa House provided a comfortable atmosphere and Nancy and Ray were familiar faces to the members.  They focused on the expression of the individual and their story instead of following a structured list of questions and gathering information.  Each veterans unique story is important.  The veteran’s oral histories are videoed, recorded, and transcribed by a volunteer, providing the veterans and their families a digital record of the stories to share with future generations.

Fred Evans

Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army

Served: 1974 – 1991

One of my soldiers came to
me and said, “Sir, I’m afraid of dying. What do I
need to do?” and I said, “Let me give you some
advice from my father, who was in World War II and faced the Japanese.” And I said, “Don’t think
about yourself, think about everybody around
you. Think about the mission you’ve been assigned
to do and see it to completion, and ask
your superiors if you need assistance.”

Earsel Lewis

Master Sargent in the U.S. Army

Served: 1951 – 1972

One night, I was the watch on guard duty. You needed guards all the way around the base. Guards were on two hours and then off. One night I went around checking, I went to the bunk to lay down just resting. I dropped off to sleep and I hear the sound of a weapon being loaded. I jumped up and bumped my head; nearly fell out of the bunk. I said, “What is going on here?”  They said, “Sargent Lewis, he don’t want to go on guard.” I got up and said, “Son, why you don’t want to go on guard.” He said, “The rounds are coming in like rain out there. Just like rain and I am not ready to die.” I said, “Me neither but it’s your turn.” He said, “Uh uh! And pointed the rifle at me.” I said, “Lord have mercy.” Now I don’t know what to do. A white boy got up; got down, put his steel helmet on. He walked up, put his arm around him. And said, “Let’s go die together.” Let me tell you, it’s hard when you get over there. I had never seen nothing like that. I had never seen anyone say, “Let’s go die together.” I was not ready to die.  The boy who was not ready to die was black. The boy who said let’s go was white. They walked out the door with rounds pouring like rain. I said, “Lord have Mercy.” That was God trying to show me something.