The Union Recorder

March 18, 2014

Remembering the fallen

Traveling exhibit remembers fallen Georgia heroes

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

“Man does not die until he is forgotten.”

Georgia Military College’s Peter Boylan Hall Atrium showcased a stark reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by 200 Georgians serving the United States who died from wounds suffered in war zones since Sept. 11, 2001.

A touring pop-up photo display, “Remembering Our Fallen,” was set up Monday through Friday at GMC from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Interested members of the public viewed the piece free of charge.

The exhibit, created by Bill and Evonne Williams of Patriotic Productions, Omaha, Neb. and sponsored by Bellevue University, makes sure residents don’t forget the nation’s servicemen and women. The Williamses have a desire to honor the U.S. military and share that opportunity with others who wish to do the same.

“We wanted to honor them, but not have it sit in a museum where nobody would see it,” Bill said. 

“Remembering Our Fallen” was created for those killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to establish as a legacy for those names to forever be remembered and spoken.

Bill and Evonne do not come from military families, nor are they veterans themselves. Sometimes, it is easier for those “outside” of the military to show honor and respect. 

The couple’s four sons have certainly changed the family’s legacy, as well as opened their eyes to life on the “inside” of the military. 

Having sons who served in war zones helped Bill and Evonne appreciate the sacrifices.

Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military or know someone who has served, according to Bill.

“It doesn’t affect many people, but if your son or daughter is on display, we want people to come honor their sacrifice,” he said.

In November 2010 with the backing of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper and financial support of several sponsors including Bellevue University, the Williamses created the exhibit. The national campaign launched in Adel, Iowa, on May 1, 2011, with Iowa’s fallen.

Soon after the unveiling of this first display, Bellevue University asked the Williamses if they would be interested in a countrywide tour. 

After realizing the impact, they agreed the project should be completed in other states to note the cost of freedom while hopefully lessening the grief of the families missing their military man or woman. 

Each state has its own fallen on exhibit and will be available throughout the heroes’ hometowns, as well as other communities, businesses, schools or organizations. The artistic homage already covers Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin this year. 

“We can never forget those who sacrificed everything for our freedom.  We must remember these American heroes and speak their names when we see their family members,” said Col. James Biernesser (Ret.) USAF and director of Military Programs for Bellevue University. “This exhibit is created in such a way so it can travel easily throughout Georgia, so that more people will have the opportunity to honor and remember Georgia’s fallen.” 

There isn’t one place to find all this information. Evonne does days of research with the various military service outfits tracking down The Fallen.

“We find the families and write them a letter asking for the photos,” Bill said.

Every hero has an official military and a personal photo in the various displays.

That “humanizes” the exhibit.

The Georgia display stretches nearly 80 feet. Bill said Texas has the largest at 200 feet.

He hopes to have an exhibit for every state completed by 2016.

The photo display features Milledgeville’s own Staff Sgt. Alex French, IV. 

French lost his life in Afghanistan while deployed with the 48th Brigade as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He first served the country in the U.S. Navy, a decision he made based in part on his admiration for the animated character Popeye.

After an honorable discharge, French joined the Georgia National Guard as a member of the first squadron of the 121st Infantry. He worked with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office at the jail and would often check in with co-workers when he was on leave for Guard training.

As part of the Brigade, French was deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom in mid-2009.

In September of that year, an improvised explosive device exploded while the unit was under attack in Kwhost, Afghanistan, killing French.

Others from Central Georgia honored and remembered in the installation include: Sgt Kelley L. Courtney, USMC (Macon), SPC Mark J. Downer, USA (Warner Robins), SPC Daniel E. Gomez, USA (Warner Robins), SGT David “D’Maine” A. Holmes, ARNG (Tennille), SGT Marcus S. Futrell, ARNG (Macon), SrA Jason D. Nathan, USAF (Macon), Cpl. William G. Taylor, USMC (Macon), SGT Robert “Leeroy” G. Tenney Jr., USA (Warner Robins), Lt. Cpl. Jeffrey D. Walker, USMC (Macon) and EM3 Amber L. Winbourne, USN (Warner Robins).

“I know it means a lot to the Georgia Gold Star Families,” Bill said. 

More information is available at www.rememberingourfallen.org.

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