Interactions with veterans like Ballard are just some of the fringe benefits students who participate in the project enjoy. The Veterans Project is an example of community-engaged learning at Clemson, which has a military history dating back to its founding in 1889.
Hines, a junior business management major, became involved in the project because of his lifelong fascination with history.
“I’ve been interested in veterans since I was little. I met my great uncle when I was about 7 years old. I found out he landed on five islands in the Pacific and I asked him a ton of questions,” he explained. “I was able to interview him in high school — for fun, not for anything specific — which helped me become closer to him. He was wounded twice: once on Okinawa from a grenade rolled down a mountain. Meeting him really influenced how I became interested in studying the history of America’ s conflicts.”
In the course of one Saturday morning, Hines has gone from Pearl Harbor to the Hanoi Hilton, and a visit with a Battle of the Bulge veteran is slated for the afternoon. It’s quite a day for a history buff.
“I can’t speak highly enough about the altruism and the character of the students who have been involved in this project. As a veteran myself, I really appreciate what they’re doing,” said historian Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln and Clemson’s creativity professor of humanities who serves as the Veterans Project’s faculty adviser. “They care about our history, and they care about these people and the sacrifices they’ve made. Seeking these veterans out and finding them is a really big job, but the students have worked really hard and they’ve really struck some bonds over the years with some of these veterans.”
To date, Clemson students have preserved the stories of 87 veterans from all branches of service with hopes that the project will continue as new students cycle in.