Intern Takeover! Parks Schmidt shares some thoughts on interning and partnering with the museum with his Heroes of Hampton Roads oral history work. Parks volunteered over 500 hours in his first year with #ThisCoolMuseum!
Parks Schmidt & Friend outside of the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum
Testing, testing one, two, three… is this thing on? Hey; my name is Parks Schmidt and I’m the intern who managed to not write a blog for an entire year at the museum (not sure if I should be proud of that or not). I am a junior at Frank W. Cox High School and I plan on entering the Navy as an officer after attending either William & Mary or a service academy (Merchant Marine Academy or the Naval Academy).
I have been at the museum for over a year now as an intern and it has been one of the best experiences in my life. The staff are friendly (and bring food occasionally), patrons are respectful, and the work is more than enjoyable. Before coming to the museum, I was just watching Netflix and hanging out at home. Now, I run a partnered program between VBSRM & myself called Heroes of Hampton Roads where I interview local veterans. I also was involved with the museum’s Veterans Appreciation Day where I displayed my personal military memorabilia collection.
The Heroes of Hampton Roads Project is a veteran preservation program I started in partnership with the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum. The project focuses on the local veterans from World War Two to modern conflicts in the Middle East with the goal of preserving their stories. With over a dozen interviews completed with men and women from every branch and service spanning the 1940’s to 1990’s, the project is eager to continue the task of preserving the stories of local veterans.
One of the veterans interviewed in the program was well known Korean War veteran PFC Duane Trowbridge (Ret.) who served with the 1st Marine Division in Inchon, Seoul, & the Chosin Reservoir. Before he landed at Inchon, he was ordered to begin constructing ladders before hitting the beaches. Duane thought to himself how odd it was and unnecessary ladders would be for an amphibious landing. However, when he got off the landing craft, he was thankful to have a ladder as a massive sea wall stood between him and his objective. Following Inchon, shrapnel at Seoul would wound Duane. After a brief stint in a field hospital, he was sent into the Chosin Reservoir. He felt the weather was horrid, roads primitive, and the enemy relentless. His only positive outlook on the situation was if he or a friend were wounded, the blood would gel up, preventing them from bleeding out. In 1951, he would be shot in the head by a Chinese Sniper and would eventually be medically retired from the Marine Corps.
Park Schmidt with Museum Executive Director William Hazel
Another veteran was SPC Larry Hazelwood of Toano, VA. Larry served as a door gunner with the 1st Signal Brigade in Vietnam and would oftentimes volunteer at a local orphanage, bringing supplies when he could. On one mission, Larry was providing cover for a group of linemen constructing a new telephone line when hundreds of NVA/VC attacked the group of 20 American soldiers. He provided covering fire while descending on the group and helped to bring men into the helicopter while the evacuation was underway. As the group was shuttled back to base, Larry asked one of them for a cigarette. Once he received it, he put it up onto his cherry red M60 barrel and began to puff, smiling on the return trip to base.
When I interview veterans, I keep to a pretty basic script: name, rank, years of service, and a story. From there, the veteran is free to elaborate on their story or their entire service. Some veterans have taken over an hour or fifteen minutes. Every veteran’s service is different; some were in the thick of it and some weren’t in for very long. However, all of their stories are important to remember.
Editing the interviews is very rewarding and sometimes frustrating. For the interviews, I only present the words of the veteran to maximize his or her testimony of their service. I add footage from the National Archives or period photographs of the veteran to enhance the experience and to try and give the audience a more in-depth view into the struggles the average service member dealt with.
If I could do one thing different with my career here at the museum, I would have started earlier. You learn so much from your coworkers and
Parks Schmidt giving gallery tour in 2019
environment here and meet so many amazing people. When working in a small museum, you see a select few who have a desire to learn and educate themselves. To me, the experiences you have with every one of them is just as important as a cup of coffee in the morning (or afternoon. Coffee is a staple here at VBSRM).
There are TONS of different ways to get involved with the program! Spreading the word that the program exists and being interviewed are the best ways to get involved. To be interviewed, email Parks Schmidt at email@example.com or send an DM on the Instagram account @militarycurator.