Get to know Hazel Diaz, the manager behind the Military Voices Initiative!

About Me:

I am a proud New York City native. I grew up in Bushwick, but currently live in Amish country, Pennsylvania; you could say I’m pretty well rounded. After my service in the United States Marine Corps, I began working in veteran services. I have served the military community in several roles related to policy, education, nonprofit and veteran services organizations for over 12 years. When not working, I enjoy backpacking through state and national parks (I have a few dozen under my belt), and traveling both domestically and internationally. I have visited 48 states and a handful of countries. I also enjoy yoga, running, biking, kayaking, and treating myself to ice cream after my adventures.

What is your role at StoryCorps and how long have you been with the organization?

I am manager of the Military Voices Initiative (MVI) and I’ve been with StoryCorps for five years.

What does your job entail?

I manage the MVI project as a whole and this entails scheduling, partnering with radio stations, and working with the field managers on recording conversations. I also produce the program materials, work with StoryCorps’ legal and production teams, serve as field manager, and meet deliverables for our grant. In terms of partner organizations, I often work with local VSOs (veteran service organizations) and collaborate with local station partners to produce promotion materials, plan and host listening events, and serve as an MVI and StoryCorps ambassador in these communities.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

One of our challenges is trying to appeal to a variety audiences in disparate regions. We work to create materials that resonate with the broadest possible audience, but it can still pose a challenge when you’re trying to reach participants in regions as divergent as Alaska and Washington, D.C.

What are some of the rewards of your job?

One of the biggest rewards for me is being on the road and being part of interviews in real time. When we are on the ground and talking to participants in person, it’s especially meaningful. I also get satisfaction from seeing the radio stations work with our materials and tailor them to their audiences in order to maximize engagement.

What is your favorite story?

My favorite story is “Just Like Yesterday,” which is a love story about two people finding each other in New York and creating a life together, despite a language barrier. As a native New Yorker, I loved hearing how smitten they still are with each other.

As we honor our veterans this Veteran’s Day, November 11, why do you think StoryCorps’ MVI Initiative is important?

Our MVI archive shows that the veterans in our country are not a monolith — they each have different experiences and their stories show us that we have a shared humanity, no matter what our background is. 

I think this collection is valuable because it demonstrates how adaptable people are in the face of adversity. Many military members—along with their children and spouses—move often, so their stories are about resiliency in the face of change. While not every service member or family of a service member talks about their military experience, many do, and for those who have left the service and feel isolated—it can be helpful to hear relatable stories of those who have done the same. We encourage all veterans to record their stories with us!