The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Opinion

July 7, 2010

Patriotism

New federally-funded project preserves record of heroic efforts

BECKLEY — We’ve just celebrated Independence Day. Some time during the weekend, most church goers sang a patriotic hymn such as “America the Beautiful” or “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” Those who caught a Miners game this weekend had the opportunity to participate in our national anthem.

During the past week, during memorial services for the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, we’ve heard a great deal of patriotic rhetoric.

Through these observances, we’ve been reminded of our freedom and the high price required to obtain and maintain it.

What an appropriate time to focus attention on a major project under way to honor men and women who gave their all so the rest of us may be free.

HMS Technologies Inc. founder Harry Siegel and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., recently discussed the initiative known as the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Support Center. Moore helped to secure the $1.25 million in federal dollars to fund the project.

Corporate team members that include veterans, service-disabled veterans and their caregivers have been hired to scan Army documents that tell the stories of soldiers who have fought for our country.

The project calls for imaging the death records from World War I forward, so they can be retrieved more quickly. Thanks to today’s technology, even those documents well-worn by age will not be damaged.

The project involves scanning not only death documents, but files of military persons missing in action.

Once the imaging work is done, the paper documents will be returned to the National Archives.

Members working with the project say they have come to appreciate the unique story each file tells, emphasizing the singular contributions each of the soldiers has made.

It’s good to know those stories will be easier to access, and they will be available to be told to generations to come.

We are never more than one generation away from losing our freedom. Each generation needs to remember the price of freedom and make an effort to keep history alive so that this nation will not repeat the mistakes of democracies that have fallen back into tyranny.

We need to keep the spirit of liberty alive all year long. This permanent record of true patriots’ heroic efforts will provide one more way for us to do just that.

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