Meet the writers who are telling the WWII fallen stories of Arlington National Cemetery - Draft
Updated: May 29, 2022
More than 100 volunteers, from nearly three dozen states, have researched and written stories for each of the 8,000 WWII fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Here is what some of them have to say about the experience.
Remembering all their friends who did not come home
"In the midst of the pandemic, I felt alone and isolated. In the spring of 2021, I opened an email from the military records site Fold3. I had been on their email list due to the research I had done on my family tree. Who knew that that one little email would change my life and help give me purpose? It explained what Stories Behind the Stars was and that they needed volunteer writers. This was right up my alley.
"I have always been fascinated by World War II. My grandfather served in the Pacific Theater and was one of the lucky ones to come home. But like many veterans, he was never the same again. Not only did it affect his body but his also his mind. He was haunted by those he lost. Never could he imagine that his oldest son, my father, would go through the very same thing in Vietnam -- losing a part of himself in a jungle on the other side of the world. Both men would die at the age of 54. I never knew my grandfather and was not able to ask him about his war experience. It was evident on every single day in my dad's life, though, so I assume it would be the same for my grandfather.
"I do this project because I know it would make my dad proud and I hope it brings my grandfather closer -- by remembering all their friends who did not come home." - Jodi Block, Michigan
It puts your own life in perspective
"The day you find out about Stories Behind The Stars, will be life changing. Here you are in your own bubble of your life and things aren't that great. All you are thinking about is yourself. But, you find a story in the news about researching and writing stories of soldiers who did not come home from WW2. You think, oh my gosh, I have to do that. And you start.
"After 167 stories, I realize that it has made me a different and a better person. These are boys, men and women, who left their lives to join a war. You will write your first story and enjoy every moment. "I wrote a story about eight WW2 soldiers, a fighter crew, all now buried at Arlington National Cemetery, who were not found until 60 + years later in the mountains of New Guinea. What about those families? Wondering for years and years about their sons or husbands or brothers. Parents and family died without ever knowing what happened. And now you have written their soldier's story, and are proud and humbled to have done so. It puts your own life in perspective. "Arlington National Cemetery is a huge project, and I am honored to be part of it and whatever project comes next. I am hooked!!" - Molly Brown, Utah
Story would be lost over the passage of time
"Growing up I have always been fascinated with the Second World War. Both of my grandfathers, 1st Lt. George Richard Phillip and T/Sgt Kenneth Wilbur Strohbusch survived the war while serving in the USAAF; the former as a fighter pilot and the latter a radio operator on a B-24. It was not until satisfying my curiosity of researching a member of my grandfather’s bomb group, 1st Lt. Thomas James Markham, that gave me the drive to tell the story of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country like 1st Lt. Markham. I was ecstatic to find out that not only were there people like me that wanted to share the stories of the fallen, but the stories of those that are buried and memorialized at the most hallowed burial ground of our nation, Arlington National Cemetery. This project provided me the tools and guidance to research, and in some cases, tell the story of over 200 individuals. Without this project, they would just be 'another name' whose story would be lost over the passage of time. This ANC experience has opened my eyes as to the many ways our Greatest Generation honorably served their country, and for that I am truly honored to be a part of it." - Brad Cychosz, Wisconsin
Giving a voice to those who can no longer speak
"What a wonderful honor it is to research and write for Stories Behind the Stars. I’m a registered nurse by trade and an avid genealogist for hobby, so I love documenting and details. Working on my DAR application helped to refine my research skills. I’m most passionate about finding the personal details of those fallen WWII men and women that made them who they are. Not just what happened to them at the end of their lives, although that’s important, but what was their life like before going to war. Did they have dreams about when they left the service? Did they play sports or sing in the glee club? What family members did they leave behind? Giving a voice to those who can no longer speak by re-telling their story is one of the most meaningful and enduring gifts you can give." - Debi Lehman, Oklahoma
Heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country
"I recently started writing stories of the WWII fallen at Arlington National Cemetery after having written many stories of those who lost their lives on D-Day for the Stories Behind the Stars project. To date, all of the stories I've written have been about those who served in the Navy. Some joined the service right out of high school, some were drafted, and some were career military leaders having graduated from the U.S.Naval Academy, but they are all heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Some lost their lives battling the enemy and some lost their lives while transporting vital supplies across the Atlantic or Pacific to support fellow servicemen. My hope is that future generations who visit the cemetery will have a greater appreciation of the sacrifice of the fallen when they are able to read or hear their personal stories, whether about an ancestor, a serviceman from their hometown, or perhaps someone who's story just touches their heart." - Pat Nauseda, Ohio
We invite other Arlington volunteers to add their thoughts here. Email your photos and up to 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org