From left, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science juniors Sarah Perry of Columbus, Hamilton Wan of Starkville and Lori Feng of Starkville talk Tuesday about the Mississippi Fallen Heroes of World War II project they’re working on for a history course taught by Julie Heintz. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
December 16, 2017 10:03:56 PM
Jesse Lynn Dodson, William (Willa) Jones, Thomas Ferguson Critz, Lee R. Jerry. These four men born in the Golden Triangle are among the estimated 4,187 Mississippians who lost their lives in World War II. Many of their stories are unknown.
Students in the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science University United States History course are attempting to change that. They hope the community may be able to assist.
Each student is profiling a soldier, airman or sailor from the student's home county who was killed during the war and then buried or memorialized overseas.
Though removed by generations, the students have taken responsibility for the stories of these brave men. Using primary document research, they are creating websites to honor and rekindle memories of these soldiers at themsms.org/fallenheroes.
Instructor Julie Heintz was inspired to develop the project at MSMS after conducting similar research during an American Battle Monuments Commission fellowship in 2015.
"We look at this as a lasting legacy," Heintz said of the local initiative. "We want to tell the stories. We want to share them."
Since first being paired with a service member in August, students have become increasingly connected as they discover more and more information, said MSMS junior Sarah Perry of Columbus, 15.
"I didn't think I would get so invested in this," added Lori Feng, 15, a junior from Starkville.
Among the 31 fallen heroes being honored this year are four from the immediate area. Students hope surviving relatives or friends can share personal stories or photographs that help create a vivid portrait of the servicemen listed below:
Dodson worked as an insurance agent at Life & Casualty Insurance Co. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Aug 26, 1943, and was later assigned to Co. I, 175th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division. He died July 31, 1944; his final resting place is Normandy American Cemetery.
Any information should be directed to Heintz at [email protected]
Working on the Fallen Heroes project is giving students new perspective.
MSMS junior Hamilton Wan, 16, of Starkville said, "It definitely makes you consider every soldier's life that went into World War II and the great sacrifices made."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.