Marty Marsh Jacobs, an alumnus of Texas A&M University-Commerce and a counselor in the university’s Counseling Center, donated her family’s military letters to the East Texas War and Memory Project on April 26.
“I think the War and Memory Project is wonderful,” said Jacobs. “I’m really excited about it and I think it’s already accomplished miracles in finding out about the wars and finding about the people involved in the wars, which is what these letters are all about. Neither my father nor grandfather talks very much about the war in their letters. Even though the letters don’t show a lot of war information, they do contain a lot of personal information. Students will get to see the people who took part in the wars, and I think that’s important.”
Some of the letters were from Jacobs’ grandfather, John Lawson Gibbs, Lt. Engineering Corps, stationed in France and his wife Lil Del (Corker) Gibbs during World War I. She also has letters from her father, Cornelius Bradford Marsh, Jr., Lt., Capt. by the end of war, Coast Artillery, stationed in California then Leyte, and his wife Mary Lynn (Gibbs) Marsh during World War II.
“When thinking about war, many people consider only the military or diplomatic aspects of waging war; they rarely ponder the experiences of ordinary men and women who contributed to and were affected by war,” said Dr. Eric Gruver, Director of Honors Advising. “By collecting oral histories and artifacts from those affected by military conflicts, the East Texas War and Memory Project aims to bridge the gap between the public’s memory and perception of war and what people experienced during wartime. Marty’s family’s letters provide a unique insight not found in textbooks or traditional media. Scholars can explore relationships between her grandparents during World War I and her parents during World War II and, by examining their language and dialogue, historians and students alike will be more able to grasp the realities of war ordinary people encountered while separated from their loved ones.”
Jacobs donated two boxes, which contain hundreds of letters and some photos, which will all be preserved digitally and stored in the University Archives at Gee Library. Students can access these items by going to the fourth floor of the library, or going to the library webpage on the university website.
“The letters donated by Marty will be an asset to the Special Collections Department as they provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of two soldiers,” said Andrea Weddle, University Archivist. “Personal texts, such as letters and diaries, have a candid, open quality which contrasts with the highly conceptualized language of more official documents. Collections such as this appeal to both the scholarly community and the casual researcher. We are delighted to have these in our collection!”
Working as a university counselor, Jacobs enjoys seeing the personal experiences uncovered by the War and Memory Project. She appreciates the men and women in the military after growing up in a military family and marrying Joel E. Jacobs, a retired photojournalist, Chief Petty Officer (Journalist Chief) in the U.S. Navy.
The East Texas War and Memory Project focuses on collecting and preserving oral histories of veterans, their families, and others who experienced the effects of war. Six students are working as interns to conduct the oral history interviews and provide a condensed summary version to be uploaded to the university’s archives online. Under the direction of Dr. Eric Gruver, Director of Honors Advising and under the supervision of Andrea Weddle, University Archivist, along with many others, this project has grown with more than 14 students involved. Gruver has created a permanent internship for students interested in working with the project that will begin the Fall 2013 semester. These students are taking transcripted quotes from the interviews and creating a contextualized narrative story as a basis for their honors theses projects.
For more information, contact the East Texas War and Memory Project at [email protected], or contact Dr. Eric Gruver directly at [email protected]. For more information on Gee Library or to access the digital collection, go to http://www.tamuc.edu/library/.