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  • Writer's pictureDon Milne

Going the Extra Mile to Find a Photo of the Fallen

Stories Behind the Stars European Theater of Operations Special Project Director Scott Rayl is also working with the Dutch based Faces of Margraten Project to find photos of all the Americans buried there. His research techniques can be used for those SBTS researchers who would also like to find missing photos.

Scott describes his process for finding missing photos:


For those that don’t feel right without having a photo. Realize, up front, this is the extra mile, now let’s walk it together! I don’t feel right without it, so this is a general guide about how I go about finding photos. If you feel the same, please indulge yourselves and never forget that this is a team sport. When in doubt, ask your leadership or your fellow participants for help. Still have an issue, your leaders know where to find me, and I’m on Facebook as Scott Rayl. Email:

The following material was actually a part of a pitch I was writing for a major historical society on the east coast who is entertaining the idea of getting heavily involved in our remembrance exercise. Fingers crossed this will be huge and inspire other organizations to do the same, allowing us to meet our goal of finishing in 2025.

John D. Aaron


2nd AD


Creek County, OK

41st INF BN, 2nd AD


I now have ridiculous amounts of information to play with. Sometimes, I immediately find a photo and I’m done. Otherwise, it is about building a network profile of the family to discover living blood relatives and a timeline.

No immediate photo!

1930 Census has them still in AR, at 7 he isn’t likely old enough to have left a picture in his place of origin. Sometimes you start from birth and work your way to their death, but usually it’s the opposite.

1940 Census has him in Bristow, OK in 1935 and 1940. There is lots of room for a photographic foot print at this age.


Timeline Established.

Best guess, Bristow, OK has a historical society.

But, his longest living sibling went back to or never left their home county, AR.

There are also 3 other people creating family trees of this person on ancestry. I will email all of these today and see if anyone returns with some viable information. I have a template for this so the process goes really fast. I also called the number and spoke to someone at the museum.

Hello, I am conducting a research project with Stories Behind the Stars to digitally memorialize and repatriate the memories of our fallen service members from WW2, and one of them _________appears to be associated with your family or tree. I would be interested in any original source documentation, but my focus is finding a photo.

In the meantime, check out the work we are doing and decide whether or not you want to get involved.

-----------------------This is the one-hour mark-------------------------------------

I have found photos by this time before. I will do some general work to identify the key and current family members while I wait for replies to my emails. The museum was keen to have their research team look into this for me. They will be back on Monday.

Mom, Dad, sister stay in the area until they die in 64, 57, and 86.

Other sister stayed in AR and died in POB.

-----------------------------Maybe two-hours later-----------------------------

Often these obituaries are gold mines. I believe I am not only going to get what I’m looking for, but I might get the actual photo that his sister always displayed since his death. I have had these things take 20 minutes, and I am working some cases where two months later, I’m still in the trenches.

Sports fans, I didn’t just get a picture, I repatriated this service member’s memory. If a picture says a thousand words than we can double the length of our stories just like that. What’s more, I have an extremely overjoyed family that I promise you is singing our praises through their social circles. Whatever their sphere of influence is, I get to tap into that for the betterment of Stories Behind the Stars. I also have a number of historical societies and a museum interested in what we are doing.

I firmly believe they are going to advocate for us, because I don’t send them all the pictures that I get. I wait until it is fully processed and I send them one. A week or two later, I send another with the greater context of the story that I discovered. I also send my flyer and some links each time. Developing these relationships is going to catapult my efforts in the various states and countries that I have a personal presence.

This is a team sport, use your team and the extended network!

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