Jeff Beabout grew up hearing stories of World War II battles from his great uncle who served in the Navy. He never tired of the stories and it instilled in him a deep respect for the men and women now known as our “Greatest Generation.”
In 2004 he asked a friend’s grandfather, a World War II veteran, if he could record his story on video. Until that time, Beabout’s experience with videography was limited, but he felt certain that veterans of World War II had so much to teach us and to share that he compiled a list of questions for the interview that became the basis of what is now known as “The Veterans DVD Project.”
By 2006, Beabout’s website on the project was up and running and interest in the interviews grew rapidly. To date, Beabout has recorded the stories of approximately 100 veterans. His largest group of veterans came from Homewood’s Dawson Memorial Baptist Church when he recorded the individual stories of 31 men. By the time the interviews were completed and a banquet was held to honor the project, three of the participants had passed away. “I thought it might be uncomfortable for the families of the men who had recently died to come to the banquet when we showed the videos, “ says Beabout. “However it was just the opposite. These families were beyond excited to have their relative’s story shown and you could see the pride on their faces. It just proves how quickly we are losing these brave men and women.”
When an interview is set up for a World War II veteran, he asks that a “sponsor” such as a family member or close friend complete a form on the veteran’s background and branch of service. The interviews not only ask about the World War II area, but also their lives after the War.
In a section of questions called “advice for future generations,” Beabout asks the men and women to consider those that will come after them. “I ask them what they would tell their great-great grandchildren, the generations ahead they’ll never meet. I’m always touched and amazed with the advice they give to those who will go after them,” explains Beabout.
Every video session differs. Beabout’s questions allow the veterans to share and hopefully remember details they may not have thought about for years. “I’ve had veterans sit down for their interview in full uniform. The level of dedication, bravery and loyalty from this generation of Americans is an example we all can follow,” says Beabout. “They simply went to war when called. It was a time in our country when honor and duty overshadowed self-interest.”
As news of the project has spread, Beabout has been contacted by the Discovery Channel and the Library of Congress. “At this point, we are still a small project, but it’s great to know the awareness is now there and efforts are being made to preserve these life stories,” says Beabout.
Beabout does not charge for his services. A DVD copy of the interview is given to the family and he only charges a fee of approximately $15.00 for additional copies. Beabout’s growing business, Backyard Adventures, certainly keeps him busy, so he always welcomes volunteers interested in assisting with The Veterans DVD Project. “If someone has camcorder experience or is familiar with computer editing, or even willing to help with scheduling, I’d love to talk with them,” says Beabout.
For further information about The Veterans DVD Project, contact Beabout at 663-8700 or go to the website www.veterandvdproject.com.