A unique project called "Stories Behind the Stars" is seeking to ensure we remember WWII heroes in a more personal way.
"When you say, ‘We want to remember the fallen,’ you’re actually remembering a real person and who they were and where they were from and what their family was like and a little bit of background about them. I think it makes it a much more meaningful experience," said Don Milne, the founder of the project, "Stories Behind the Stars."
In a Zoom interview from his home in Kentucky, Milne told FOX 5 the project started about four years ago as just a hobby of his. He would research and write stories about the WWII service members killed in combat and post these stories to a blog.
That blog, he said, gained a massive following – that following not happy at the news the blog would have to end.
The result: Milne tells FOX 5 he’s now working with thousands of volunteers across the country to collect and publish these stories on platforms everyone can view.
"We all know who Iron Man is. We know Captain American. We know these people by name. But who knows who Francis Daniel Day is? We don’t but shouldn’t we? He’s one of the real heroes of America," said Milne, describing Francis Daniel Day from one of the most recent stories a volunteer completed and shared.
Francis Daniel Day, Milne told FOX 5, died at Pearl Harbor. He was a New Jersey native whose remains were only identified more recently. Milne and news articles say Day saved more than a dozen fellow crewmen from the USS Oklahoma, even though he didn’t make out himself.
Milne said the goal is to complete one story for every military member killed in combat during World War II. That’s more than 400,000 service members, he tells FOX 5.
A Marine Veteran, Adam Earls in Texas, is one of those volunteers researching and writing with Milne.
"WWII was so costly to us and there’s not very many of those Veterans left," said Earls, "When I did my own research I just realized these guys just got little blurbs in the newspaper. The guys that I served with that were killed in combat, you know-- bridges were named after them, full write-ups, massive parades and funerals, which they all deserved. But, it was such a trying time that there you know there was so much loss and then I think after the war America just got moving again and a lot of these guys got forgotten and that just didn’t sit well with me."
Don Milne says he’s not a veteran but a big history buff and started writing in hopes it would shed new light on the people who sacrificed their lives for our country. Milne says they’re not just names we read on walls and headstones.
He also told FOX 5 Arlington National Cemetery gave them a list of the more than 7,000 WWII heroes buried by the Nation’s Capital. The group is working on an app that should be able to pick your GPS location and pull up the story of the WWII service member at the location of their headstone.
Milne did the math and said if 2,000 volunteers could write one story a day, they could complete the project’s mission by the 80th Anniversary of the end of WWII, in September 2025.
"There should only be one unknown soldier in Arlington, the main one that we think about. All the rest, we should know their stories," said Milne.