It is fitting that as we recognize Memorial Day this month, we also mark one year since the State Library first began its work with the Fields of Honor Foundation. This non-profit organization provides information on the close to 10,000 soldiers buried in Margraten cemetery in the Netherlands. The partnership emerged from a simple inquiry; the Warnier family who cared for the grave of PVT James E. Wise from Dillon wanted a clearer photo of their American hero. The request ignited a response that we can only describe as magnificent.
During the search for information on PVT Wise, the Communications Team tagged the Faces of Margraten, an extension of the Fields of Honor Foundation, on Twitter. A digital conversation ensued; the organizations agreed to work together to discover photos of an additional 34 soldiers.
The State Library’s reference librarians got to work searching databases and emailing historical societies and community organizations. They even wrote letters to people who they believed were extended family members. To date, 15 of those 34 South Carolina soldiers now have photos placed beside their memorials in Margraten.
We currently assist two other cemeteries—the Ardennes Cemetery and the Henri-Chapelle Cemetery, both in Belgium. Our efforts helped discover photos of 67 of the 110 South Carolinians who are buried or memorialized. We will continue to search until all of these heroes have corresponding images.
Just as our tagline states, the State Library is committed to collaboration. Director Leesa Aiken is working with the heads of other state libraries to create a network for sharing information to connect those in other states with American cemeteries overseas. The hope is that all Americans will receive the recognition that they deserve.
If you have a photo or information about a South Carolina World War II soldier who died and is buried abroad, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Margraten” in the subject line.