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The Blog of Photographer Steven Gray

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Hatuey, Texans, Kites, and other Memories from Guantanamo Bay

I had the opportunity to be part of something very special this summer.  Through the Department of Public History at the University of West Florida (holla, alma mater!) I was part of a team of volunteer historians who interviewed various naval veterans who did tours of duty at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  These interviews were recorded and archived in their entirety for purposes of further research, as well as for incorporation into an upcoming nationwide exhibit. Growing up, I always enjoyed listening to older people tell stories from their lives.  Ironically, I know more about many people outside of my family than I do about my own grandparents' histories.  While many of my peers were bored by the storytelling of various "old ruins," I enjoyed hearing tales of days gone by.  Most recently, I have made it one of my personal goals to spend more time listening and documenting what my elders have to say.

History is much more than the headlines and the chapter titles.  When someone says "Guantanamo," a million images might spring to an audience's mind.  Castro, Soviet missiles, post-9/11 detainees; these things are common knowledge.  But what are the people like?  What do they do between the headlines, between shifts?  Those "core elements" are what this project seeks.  We want to understand the communities and their relationships.  In the brilliant conversations which I had recently, I heard stories of everyday life in GTMO that spanned from as far back as 1939 to as recently as 2003.  I met interesting men and women whom I never would have connected with otherwise, and I am incredibly grateful to have had these opportunities.

Here are some excerpts: