By Debbie Gregory.
Every year, on the last Monday in May, the people of our great nation unite to honor the memory of those killed while in the service of our armed forces. The purpose of the holiday is to acknowledge the sacrifice, mourn the loss, and honor the memory of the fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen. But for many, especially the families of the deceased, one day a year is not enough to truly remember the fallen.
It is for this reason that Bill and Evonne Williams of Omaha, Nebraska created “Remembering Our Fallen” in November 2010. It is this couple’s hope to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
While neither Bill nor Evonne are military Veterans, they do have four sons, all of whom have served. Their son Ben is an Army Captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps; Tom is an Infantry Officer in the Marine Corps; Sam is an Army Officer; Max is a former Marine Sergeant, and is now an Air Traffic Controller with the Department of Defense at Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan.
Even though the Williams family was fortunate enough not to have lost any family members in service, Bill and Evonne were inspired by a story that they had read in September, 2010. The story was about a father whose pain was even greater, four years after his son had died in Iraq, because he felt like his son had been forgotten.
In November of that same year, Bill and Evonne created an exhibit called “Remembering Our Fallen” that included the names and pictures of Nebraska natives who died in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 325 family members attended the first event, and it attracted more than 750 visitors. The exhibit has been travelling around the state ever since.
“Less than 1% serve in the military today, so most people don’t pay much attention to the fallen because it doesn’t affect them,” said Bill Williams. “The Gold Star family’s biggest concern is their loved ones will be forgotten. Our mission is that they will not be forgotten,” he said.
In accomplishing their mission, Remembering Our Fallen aims to make every day Memorial Day, where the memory, the sacrifice and the loss of the fallen is honored, and the men and women who died for their country are remembered.
Over the last four years, Remembering Our Fallen has expanded to include separate exhibits in other states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
The ultimate goal of everyone at Remembering Our Fallen is to produce a collection of exhibits from all 50 states, and have them tour around the country.
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Military Connection: Remembering Our Fallen Exhibit: By Debbie Gregory