‘Beyond the Name’: Volunteers with Utah connections work to honor every fallen Pearl Harbor service member

(ABC4) – December 7th is a day of deep remembrance.

This date marks the anniversary of the attacks on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor that killed 2,335 Americans and caused the country to enter World War II. The passing of the occasion in 2021 will mark the 80th anniversary of the surprise strike by Imperial Japanese forces against the US military at Base Hawaii.

The massive loss of life, which subsequently led to further casualties in the years of conflict during World War II, is significant enough to be honored as a whole. Longtime Utahn Don Milne, now living in Louisville, Kent. to be near her grandchildren, believes that honoring every soldier who died on that horrible day in paradise is just as important.

Each of those who died had a story, and their organization, Stories Behind the Stars, strives to tell each of those stories.

“I think Americans do a great job of remembering those who served in the military, both on Veterans Day and on Remembrance Day,” Milne tells ABC4.com. “I think it adds a little bit more if we know a bit more about them beyond the name.”

A long-time history enthusiast with children who served in the armed forces, Milne’s interest in learning about the names carved into stone memorials of some of the most notable moments in state history United was born on Pearl Harbor’s last big anniversary, the 75th in 2016.

Armed with an Ancestry.com membership and a passion for history, Milne began the project of essentially writing an obituary for every US serviceman killed in the Pearl Harbor attacks and compiling them into one. place.

Quickly, the task of doing everything on his own became too heavy, fortunately he was able to rely on a network of more than 150 volunteers, including more than twenty from Utah.

Each of the Utah-born servicemen and women who moved to Pearl Harbor now has their story listed online thanks to Stories Behind the Stars. The group is only about 30 people from completing the entire Pearl Harbor project.

The project got deeply personal at times, as volunteers reached out to surviving family members to learn more about their deceased heroes and to write an obituary that is all the more vivid and reflective of who they were.

The goal from there is to create an app that can provide on-site obituaries to visitors to war memorials across the country, from the one in Pearl Harbor to the new one here locally in West Valley City.

“Anyone who visits that person’s grave or memorial will be able to read it there,” says Milne of the future vision, which is still under development. “Just pull out your phone and read this person’s story. “

Milne’s project has received major support, not only from Ancestry.com, which helps build the app and database, but also from some of the biggest names in American politics. In an opinion piece published on The Hill in May for Memorial Day, Utah Senator Mitt Romney cited the work of Stories Behind the Stars when he expressed his appreciation for the US military who made the sacrifice. ultimate.

Romney wrote:

“This Memorial Day weekend, we have a responsibility to ensure that these brave men who sacrificed their lives to defend our freedom are remembered and that their stories and legacies live on for generations.

We can thank dozens of Americans for picking up where Cronkite and Eisenhower left off. The non-profit community initiative, Stories behind the stars, engages thousands of volunteers across the country to research and publish the stories of our fallen heroes. Its founder, Don Milne, started the project in Utah to document the 2,095 servicemen who never returned home after World War II. His project is very successful. Using ancestry databases and online newspaper archives, Milne and volunteers from each state contributed stories about their family members and participated by writing dozens of stories themselves. inputs.

For many families, this project highlights the remarkable life of their loved ones. When I read them, I am moved by their heroism. They sacrificed their lives to protect their brothers in arms and to preserve the ideals of freedom from the threat of fascism.

Even with Romney’s praise, Milne wants to keep moving forward. Its purpose is to complete the obituaries of every fallen American fighter who died during World War II. There are over 420,000 to be done and the goal is to have them all done by September 2, 2025, the 80th anniversary of the end of the war.

To get the job done, Milne searches for recruits to complete the next phase, creating an obituary for all who died in the war and are buried in Arlington National Cemetery on the east coast.

“We could certainly use so many volunteers who are willing to help us and join us in writing these stories,” Milne asks humbly. “Give up a night watching Squid Game or whatever we love these days and write a story. If you could write an obituary, which is what most people have to do at some point in their lives, then you can help us with this project here.

It is the least that we living Americans can do for those who have gone into battle, he said.

“I think it’s just an act of gratitude and I think a lot of our hundreds of volunteers would share that thought,” he says. “It’s just a way of recognizing why it happened. There are probably hundreds of thousands if not millions of people living today because of some of the actions taken by some of these people who did not return home. “

And Stories Behind the Stars won’t let them forget.

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