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APSU associate professor, service-learning students assist on project to honor area veterans

Kevin TannerCLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Every veteran has a story, but not every veteran’s story is remembered by history.

For each acclaimed general or honored battlefield leader, there have been countless American men and women who sacrificed their time, bodies and lives to protect their country — only to see their unique stories go untold after they took off the uniform.

A joint project of the Kiwanis Club of Clarksville’s Memories of Service and Sacrifice Committee and Austin Peay State University, “Faces of Valor” exists to reach the people history overlooks. Since its first edition in 2005, “Faces of Valor” has told the stories of over 1,500 Clarksville-Montgomery County military veterans in every conflict in American history, beginning with the Revolutionary War and continuing through the modern-day War on Terror.

The newest volume of the collection, “Faces of Valor V” was recently released, and for Austin Peay Associate Professor Kevin Tanner and his American history service-learning students, the 290 new pictures and personal stories of area veterans contained within are the product of two years of research, interviews and opportunities to sit and listen to never-before-told memories.

“We held collection days at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Library where my students and I invited veterans to share their stories, as well as any photos or medals they had from their service,” Tanner said. “In other cases, we had people come and just say ‘my grandfather served and this is what I know.’”

Tanner said he and his students were fortunate to receive the support of area veterans, but not every American conflict has a living veteran community. For conflicts that predate modern records like the War of 1812, the Civil War or even Tennessee’s important contributions to the Alamo, Tanner’s students had to play the part of historical detectives.

While some students prepared the explainers and timelines that accompany each conflict, other service-learning students poured through government archives, newspaper obituaries and genealogical sources to track down the names and, in some cases, stories of area veterans who served in wars that predate Clarksville-Montgomery County.

“The students were really energetic and excited about this project,” Tanner said. “Many of our students were either related to veterans, or knew people who had served, so it was an opportunity to find out more about what they experienced. One student (Moises Talavera) was a veteran himself, while another came from a family where her father, mother and brother all served, so the research was important to a lot of them.”

Austin Peay Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement Director Alexandra Wills said Tanner’s service-learning classes were an opportunity for Austin Peay students to put the history they’ve read about into a new context, while also supporting a military community that makes up over 20 percent of the University’s student population.

“During those collection days, our students were not just reading about history; they were collecting the oral history of people who actually experienced the conflicts they’ve read about,” Wills said. “For a field like history that is not often hands-on, being able to actually make it come alive is invaluable for these students.

“It’s also a way for our students to give back to Clarksville and its military population. People who are stationed at Fort Campbell often stay here…they stay here and become a part of this community and we are connected to them as a university.”

“Faces of Valor Volume V” is available now, and can be purchased at the Customs House Museum Gift Shop, the Montgomery County Historical Society, the Montgomery County Mayor’s office and the Kiwanis Club of Clarksville office, or by calling the Kiwanis Club at 931-320-1337.

For more information on Austin Peay’s Department of History and Philosophy, visit www.apsu.edu/history. To find out more about service-learning opportunity through the Austin Peay Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement, visit www.apsu.edu/volunteer/service-learning.