American Veterans Center – Tim Holbert Interview
The American Veterans Center’s stated mission is "to guard the legacies and honor the sacrifices of all American veterans. Through oral history preservation, educational programs and civic events." It hosts radio shows and podcasts that include "Veterans Chronicles," "Profiles in Valor," "Proudly We Hail," and documentaries. "Home of the Brave" on its Website features stories of veterans, such as that about Fritz Emil Wolf, a fighter pilot who few P-40s over China and Burma and later, the article says, led the first carrier-based bombing attack on targets in Japan. The center also hosts Wounded Warrior Dinners and the recently revived National Memorial Day Parade.
The AVC’s Annual Conference and Awards Gala is described as "our nation’s premier gathering of heroes," where veterans share their experiences with hundreds of JROTC and ROTC students, West Point and Air Force Academy cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen. This year’s conference, the 15th such gathering, will be held October 25–27 at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. Among a long list of those planning to attend are members of the Doolittle Raiders and Heroes of the Battle of Midway groups, Brigadier General R. Steve Ritchie, the only Air Force "ace" of the Vietnam War. George Klein, a Pointe-du-Hoc Ranger, survivors of the Chosin Reservoir battle, highly decorated veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and George Mendonsa and Greta Friedman, who have been identified as the famed "sailor and nurse" kissing in the VJ Day Times Square photo.
Recently, the Executive Director of the American Veterans Center, Tim Holbert, discussed the organization with Armchair General in an exclusive interview.
Armchair General: How did the American Veterans Center come to be?
Tim Holbert: The origins of the American Veterans Center come from the early 1990s, and the 50th anniversary of World War II. During the anniversary commemorations, Jim Roberts, president of the Radio America network, partnered with the National Archives to create a weekly short documentary series titled World War II Chronicles that looked back on events from that week of the war, 50 years ago.
The program proved so successful that Jim Roberts decided to institutionalize the program as a non-profit organization called the World War II Veterans Committee. The Committee sought to continue the documentary work begun with World War II Chronicles, as well as to connect students to World War II veterans, allowing them to learn directly from the men and women of the Greatest Generation. The highlight event of the year, the Annual Veterans Conference around Veterans Day, was begun in the late 1990s.
Following the conclusion of the 60th anniversary of World War II in 2005, the decision was made to expand the organization’s programming to work with veterans of all eras, World War II to today, operating under the title of the American Veterans Center.
ACG: We are coming up on your Annual Veterans Conference, taking place from October 25–27 in Washington, DC. Can you tell us a bit about that?
TH: This is the 15th year for the conference, which has grown into a fantastic event unlike any other in the country. The three-day event will feature distinguished and decorated veterans from World War II to Afghanistan, who will share their lessons and experiences with an audience of several hundred military academy students from West Point, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy, as well as regional ROTC and JROTC programs. The conference is also open to all who would like to attend.
Several of the highlights of this year’s event include the famed Doolittle Raiders from World War II, as well as the Montford Point Marines, recipients of the Medal of Honor, a panel dedicated to the Battle of Midway, and a live conversation with troops on the front lines of Afghanistan via Skype. We will also have a fun conversation with the authors of the new book, The Kissing Sailor, who say that through extensive research they have finally identified the nurse and sailor in the legendary photo "VJ Day in Times Square." The sailor and nurse as identified by the book, George Mendonsa and Greta Friedman, will also be on hand to participate.
The conference will be bookended with two events filmed for television. Opening the conference will be a program titled "The Wounded Warrior Experience." Now in its third year, the program features wounded service members who offer insight and advice to veterans who have suffered both physical wounds and psychological wounds such as PTSD. The conference will close with the American Veterans Center’s Annual Awards, honoring heroes from World War II to the present day.
The awards program has taken place for 15 years, but this is the first year we have brought it to television for The Pentagon Channel. We’ve noticed how popular awards shows are with Americans, but there are currently none that honor those who most deserve it. We are excited to make this into an annual television tradition. Both programs will air on and around Veterans Day, and you can learn more information about tuning in or attending the conference at the American Veterans Center Website.
ACG: Who is eligible to join or become part of the AVC? How would someone go about doing that?
TH: While the AVC is not membership based, our programming is open to all people with an interest in military history, whether they are veterans or not. Our new online program, "Home of the Brave" allows veterans and their families to share their own personal experiences of service. Additionally, all are invited to attend our events, such as the annual conference and the National Memorial Day Parade. More information is available at our website at www.americanveteranscenter.org.
ACG: On your Website "Allies for Honor" says, "Coming Soon." What will this be?
TH: The world is becoming increasingly digital, and "Allies for Honor" is part of the AVC’s effort to keep up with this new age. It will be an online program featuring exclusive and original content for AVC supporters, and we’re excited to kick it off later in 2012.
ACG: Your site features radio shows about veterans. What are a few of those shows?
TH: As I mentioned at the outset, the AVC’s origins are in radio programming, which continues to this day. Over the years, we have produced some fantastic radio documentary programs on military history, including "D-Day: They Were There," "Pearl Harbor: 60 Years of Echoes," and "America Strikes Back: The Story of the Doolittle Raid." Currently, we have two weekly programs airing on Radio America, "Veterans Chronicles" and "Proudly We Hail." "Veterans Chronicles," which features interviews with noteworthy veterans, is also a popular podcast.
ACG: The Center has a publication called American Valor Quarterly. Would you tell us a bit about that publication?
TH: We launched the magazine in 2007 as a means by which to help veterans tell their own stories, in their own words. It grew out of the World War II Veterans Committee’s previous newsletter, also called World War II Chronicles. We found that stories by the veterans themselves, telling their own war stories, were always most popular among our readers. This is also our way of helping these veterans to add their stories to the historical record.
ACG: The AVC hosts the National Memorial Day Parade in the nation’s capital. What can you tell us at this point about the 2013 parade?
TH: The parade will take place on Monday, May 27, at 2:00 PM along Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. Some of the highlights of the parade are still coming together, but we again expect it to be the largest Memorial Day event in the nation, with some 250,000–300,000 spectators and thousands of participants, including nearly 1,000 active duty personnel. For the first time, we will be syndicating the parade’s television broadcast nationally, making it available on broadcast stations in nearly every city across the country, which we are very excited about.
ACG: Thanks for taking time to share this information with us. Is there anything you’d like to add?
TH: Mainly just a reminder that the Annual Veterans Conference will take place from October 25–27 in Washington and is open for all to attend. I hope that many of your readers will be able to join us—it truly is my favorite event of the year, and ends up being quite a memorable weekend. Thank you again.