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Book Will Compile Research Of BCHS Students On Fallen Heroes

BUCKINGHAM — The 25th annual Buckingham County Ruritan Club’s Memorial Day Observance was the last where Buckingham County High School students presented research on selected soldiers who died while defending the United States.

While the event concluded the explorations that, since the early 2000’s, dual enrollment and honors students have been doing on servicemen who paid the ultimate sacrifice, it marked the beginning of a new project for the knowledge-seeking students in Buckingham.

The hundreds of hours of extensive research that students have conducted over the past decade, having presented it to the public every year, will be compiled and published as a book for generations to come.

The planned publication will feature each of the 70 men listed on the Buckingham County War Memorial, located on the courthouse lawn.

“I’ll keep it in the dual enrollment [composition] class…I project five years for that,” Michelle Wright, whose eleventh grade English students have been doing the fact-finding for years, noted of the book.

The book will pull the data together, and give credit to all students who’ve participated in the presentations, focusing on the lives and “real people” behind the names etched on the memorial.

“Every person [on the memorial] has been researched,” Wright related, adding that she knew more information was out there pertaining to the fallen heroes.

Besides all of the veterans having been researched, Wright says that the upcoming 2015-2016 school calendar won’t allow for the annual student presentation.

“The students…have researched the personal histories of the soldiers memorialized here,” noted the event program. “The students have been working in small teams researching via Internet, libraries, and school archives, as well as conducting interviews with family and friends. This process has allowed us to know the individuals who answered their country’s call and made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Donning his red, white, and blue-striped pants and numerous medals, war hero Charles Lewis, a World War II veteran, played the theme song for each branch of the military with his harmonica between the individual presentations on William Aubrey Scott, Walker H. Mann, Fred Crow, Harry Murphy, and Charles Hartwell.

A large congregation of veterans, donning American Legion side caps, American Flag ties, and proud smiles listened as the students presented their findings.

The students not only researched the soldiers’ service records, but also their personal and professional backgrounds, their lives in Buckingham and overseas, the history surrounding their births and lives, and the culture of their families, giving life to the engraved names.

According to research by students Ja’Mir Smith, Melissa Wright, Kobe P. Barr, and Sydney Shiifflett, Scott enlisted for duty in the Town of Dillwyn and served in the Air Force during the Korean War. Smith, who was the speaker of the group, called Scott valiant for fighting and defending American liberties.

Information on Mann, a World War I soldier who served in the Navy reserves, was presented by Haley Allen, Sierra Jones, and Shelby Wise. Allen, the group’s speaker, related that Mann contracted influenza while serving in the Navy.

“There was no autopsy done, because of the overwhelming number of deaths at the time,” Allen said, referencing the flu pandemic of 1918. She explained that Mann was only 22 years old at the time of his death.

Allen said that it was a pleasure for her and her team to research and get to know Mann through their work. “This was a great person who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country…” the eleventh grader offered.

Crow, a World War II Navy man, was researched by Adriana Coleman, Alexandria Ayala, Carly Jones, and Destiny Spencer. Coleman explained that Crow’s roots in Dillwyn dated back to the founding of the Town.

Crow ascended within the ranks of the Navy very quickly, she explained. “…That amount of courage and dedication cannot and will not be ignored. Let us make sure to take the time out of not only today…but every day to truly honor and remember our veterans.”

Standing five-foot 10-inches tall, and weighing only 142 pounds, Murphy fought in World War II while serving in the Army.

“Given the honor to both serve and protect our country, Murphy accepted this tough responsibility and took on the military number 33446293, and went on his way to fight for our country,” Damaro Gough related to the crowd.

She said Murphy, who farmed before he enlisted, deserved respect for having the courage to fight for America and will “for so long be remembered as one of our many heroes.”

Students Adam Bryant, Bailey Anderson, Hunter Edwards, and Brent Davis researched Hartwell, who served in World War I while in the Army.

“He died fighting for [the] great country that is the United States,” Bryant said. He said that America would be ever grateful for Hartwell’s allegiance and service.

Following the student presentations, a wreath was laid on the memorial by Ruritan Club members Charles Lewis and Charles Crews, as veterans and members of the community silently watched.

Former Buckingham VFW Commander Marie Sweeney, who presided over the event, closed the observance, as she has done many times in the past, by offering “one prayer for peace, one hope for harmony, and one dream for understanding, so that some day no one will ever have to face the guns of war again.”

Following the observance, as the students were congratulated and shook hands with veterans, the American Flag waved in the breeze, shadowing the etched names of the fallen as a sign of protection and safeguard—similar to the hard covers of the book that will shelter the names of the fallen men for decades to come.