Whether officer or enlisted, every man and woman who has entered military service has made such a vow. For most, obeying the orders of the President (and others appointed over as applicable) amounts to going to work each day and doing your job. But there have been times throughout our nation’s history when following orders meant a whole lot more. This Memorial Day, we remember those who followed orders to the ultimate end: their sacrifice for our nation’s freedoms. As one August Chronicle journalist stated in the tribute he wrote for a fallen soldier during World War I:
“I do not feel that our citizens pay enough attention to the deaths of the soldiers from our city and county occurring abroad. A hundred years from now, when generations as yet unborn are reaping the benefits of the labors and sacrifices of all the men who perish for liberty and justice in the great world war, the historians will find no words rich enough with which to recount the noble deeds wrought by the soldiers of our land and country who were called to take active part and to shed their life’s blood in this great holocaust of war. Why wait a hundred years to honor their memories? It is meet and proper to do it now – to do it today.” [Augusta Chronicle, 19 July 1918, p. 4 col. 4]
How can we do this? By capturing and telling their stories. Through resources like Ancestry.com (which PINES library card holders can access from home during the COVID-19 lock downs), Familysearch.org and Fold3.com (s subscription site that frequently has free access during significant military holidays) thousands of records on military services members are accessible online, each providing a snippet of information that can be used to weave the narrative of a life lived and sacrificed.
Combining these records with the history of the units they served in, articles published in newspapers (many of which can be found in the Digital Library of Georgia’s Historical Newspaper Database), and resources provided by institutions such as Digital Public Library of America, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives, can help bring that service member’s story to life.
As Noble Prize winning poet Czesław Miłosz said in his novel The Issa Valley, “The living owe it to those who can no longer speak to tell their story for them.”
This Memorial Day let us do all we can to honor the heroes who gave all for the protection of our freedoms.