JANUARY 23, 2020
Grand Island Memorial Stadium
by Liz Gamblin, Foundation Assistant
In my role as administrative assistant at the GIPS Foundation, I get thrown a lot of random jobs. My favorite ones involve research where I get to dive into the internet or yearbooks or graduation programs and try to piece together a bit of our history.
I love the challenge of trying to find information about people in years past. I love staring at photos in the yearbook trying to imagine their lives then and how they turned out.
As part of our Memorial Stadium project, we are commissioning a new memorial inside East Stadium, specifically honoring Hall County’s fallen veterans. Using websites like Honorstates.org and a plaque at Memorial Stadium right now, we had a list of names to start with. My job was to research those names, and see what else I could find. I was amazed at the amount of information I was able to find on some of these remarkable men.
I came across a whole chapter in a book detailing the last days of a sailor who drifted on the ocean for 23 days only to die in the surf while approaching the shores of an island. His crew mate who was with him has since written about their time on that raft, and his story is forever captured. I have come across multiple stories of men who were captured and who died or were killed in POW camps. I read about one young man in World War I who tried to sign up over and over and was finally accepted, only to die 45 days later of Spanish Influenza. For all these incredible stories, there are more where I can’t find much at all. I know when they were born and when they died and I can sometimes find out where they are buried, but that is all.
These stories, however, are not the ones that most break my heart. It’s the unfound stories that haunt me. I have 16 names of men who I know died for their country, and yet try as I might, I can’t find any reference to them apart from their names on a memorial marker. There is no grave stone, no newspaper article, or yearbook entry. They are just lost. I know these boys had parents and siblings and friends. They had dreams and ambitions. These are men who were brave enough to fight for their country and who paid the ultimate price of dying for my freedom, and I can’t even find their birthdate. How can I learn so much about some and so little of others? I have spent hours following lead after lead online trying to find even a scrap of information all to no avail. I know that for some, if I just found the right reference I could find something. The problem with having so much information at your fingertips, is that you can so easily miss something really important in the avalanche of resources.
It’s possible that with enough time and direction, I could find something about these 16. But I also know enough about war to know that some of them are just lost. It’s just been too long for some of them. To me, that is one reason this new memorial will be so special. I will never know all I want to know about these brave heroes, but I still know their names. I can read them. I can touch them on the wall. I can remember.
Below are the names of the 16. If you have any information about these names or any Hall county veteran who died in battle, please contact Leigh Lillibridge at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website and submit their story: GI Memorial Stadium
Charles Allan Benson
William James Sheehan
Elmer Ray Sherer
Soren Christian Sorensen
Ruben E. Arnold
Earl K. Byer
Joseph E. Carter
Harold L. Cickard
Harold W. Corbett
George B. McDonald
James R. Shepherd