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Saving history of the 10th Mountain Division

As time moves on, the history of the 10th Mountain Division is being lost. Thanks to a grant, the Denver Public Library hopes to preserve it. Through the eyes of a 96-year-old World War II veteran, Storytellers Nelson Garcia and Michael Grady explain what's being done to preserve our pasts.

DENVER — Tucked away in a home near the top of Lookout Mountain is a place full of history, a place full of the story of Dick Over.

"Those are things that have been honoring me, I guess," Over said.

The 96-year-old has received honors for his work as part of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division during World War II. Over trained to fight and survive on skis in the mountainous terrain of Camp Hale near Leadville.

"Because it was a unique, unique operation," Over said. "We had never had troops trained for winter combat and we were very successful."

The 10th Mountain Division was so successful, the Denver Public Library has become a repository of memorabilia for the 10th Mountain Division.

"I really think that everything in here does have historical value," said Keli Schmid, a Denver Public Library archivist.

Schmid is in charge of it all.

"They were a division who did what no other Army division in the U.S. had done before," Schmid said.

Over was a ski racer in college and was drawn to this idea of fighting on skis.

"No idea at that time that it would develop like it has," Over said. "It changed my life."

But, over time, some of that history is getting lost. That's why Schmid is working so hard to preserve it. She said one of her most interesting artifacts is a Nazi flag signed by members of the 10th Mountain Division as a trophy of victory over the Germans in Italy.

"It brings it to life. It makes it real," Schmid said. "You can feel the cloth and know that the symbol represented more than a horrible picture in a book."

But out of all things to save, Schmid wants to save the words of people who are history.

"Here are two of them in real life, real time, right here," said Colonel Gregory Anderson while referring to Over and another veteran at an awards banquet for the Colorado Museum Snowsports Hall of Fame.

Anderson is the deputy commander of the current Tenth Mountain Division which is now based in Fort Drum, New York.

"The Division just returned back from Iraq where we were supporting operations to defeat ISIS," Anderson said.

Anderson said preserving the stories of veterans like Over in their own words is important because they will soon be gone.

"It's a source of courage. Hey, people have done worse, we can do this," Anderson said.

Last year, Schmid won a grant to digitize the oral histories of the 10th Mountain Division. She wants all their stories to be available online through the Denver Public Library YouTube Channel. If you want to experience the oral histories, head to this link.

Schmid said that hearing the stories from the soldiers who lived it is so much more valuable than reading it in a book.

"There were moments when he would stop and you could hear his voice crack and you knew he was trying not to break down in tears," Schmid said.

She said she wants to save these oral histories because not everyone can meet history face-to-face.

"We're a dying group, simply because of our age," Over said.