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Memorial Day

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, May 2022; written by Pat Tully

I used to live in Middletown, Connecticut and was active in the Middlesex County Historical Society. One of the most powerful items in the Society’s collections was an old scrapbook that contained photographs of Middletown’s Civil War veterans who had died of wounds or disease. Shortly after the end of the war, a church group went to every family and asked for a picture of their lost loved one, and compiled them into this memorial. The pictures are of smiling young men proud of their new uniforms and eager to start on a new adventure. The scrapbook is a powerful monument to their sacrifice and that of their families.

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who died fighting for our country in conflicts ranging from the American Revolution to the War in Afghanistan. The deaths of so many men and women before their time is a great loss. Their families’ grief—and the aching uncertainty of those whose loved ones’ remains were never found—is impossible to imagine.

This year Memorial Day is on May 30, exactly 154 years after the first national commemoration of what was then Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868. Many of us will take time this weekend to honor relatives, friends, and comrades in arms who have fallen in defense of our country.

The Ketchikan Public Library has books and DVDs that tell their stories. These are a few of them:

In ‘A Thousand May Fall: Life, Death and Survival in the Union Army’, author Brian Matthew Jordan traces the vicissitudes of the men of the 107th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, from September 1862 through the end of the Civil War in the spring of 1865.

‘Death and the Civil War’, a documentary based on a book by Drew Gilpin Faust, focuses on post-war efforts to find, identify and send home the remains of thousands of soldiers on both sides who died on faraway battlefields. Women’s groups in the North and the South were particularly active in these efforts to bring home and lay to rest their brothers, sons and fathers.

‘All Souls Day: The World War II Battle and the Search for a Lost U.S. Battalion’, by Joseph Pereira and John Wilson, tells the story of a fierce battle in November 1944 near the German-Belgium border, and the years-long search for members of the U.S. Army’s 28th Infantry Division who were missing after the engagement.

‘The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home’, by Heath Hardage Lee, is a compelling story about the tireless efforts of a group of women to learn the fate of Navy and Air Force pilots who were shot down over Vietnam.

The Ketchikan Public Library has all these and much more available to check out. The Library’s hours are Monday through Saturday from 10am-6pm; we will be closed on Monday, May 30 for Memorial Day.

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