Submitted by Cara Burton, Director Eastern Shore Public Library System
The “Profiles of Honor” traveling exhibit staff left the Eastern Shore of Virginia in awe of our patriotism and the wealth of World War I and II history here. The exhibit, hosted by the Eastern Shore Public Library, also included a scan-athon. Shore residents brought more than 400 items to scan, a record in the state at these events. We also broke the attendance record with over 300 visitors. The extraordinary numbers, however, are overshadowed by the extraordinary stories that came to light at this three-day tour. Families arrived and shared the stories of their loved ones, a true tribute to the sacrifices made by our service men and women and their families.
At our pop-up library in front of the exhibit trailer, I personally was moved each time a visitor placed a flag sticker on the world map we set up. This simple act highlighted that our small community had a great impact during these wars by delivering our young men and women into harm’s way at points from Guam to Normandy. Photographs, letters, and other mementos were brought out to provide testimony and discussion. Their scanned copies will be joined together to tell a narrative of a dark chapter in history, one we cannot allow to be forgotten.
One Shore resident, still alive, served in Burma (now Myanmar), China and India. Another’s relative was on the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Before the U.S. joined WWI, one man’s grandfather joined the French Air Corps. A WWI helmet was brought showing a bullet dent demonstrating a life miraculously spared. A father’s prisoner of war photo was shown. Touching camp life images highlighted the young soldiers’ humor in rough circumstances. The stories poured out.
The library plans to host other events like this when the ESVA Heritage Center opens in the new regional library opening in August 2020 in Parksley. We plan to teach you to care for family archives, and scanning equipment will be available to digitize items for future access when the ink has faded.
I would like to thank the following without whom this event would not be possible: The Virginia WWI and WWII Commemoration Commission, the Towns of Nassawadox and Parksley, the Parksley Volunteer Fire Department, the Parksley Police Department, and the numerous library volunteers. Most of all, I thank the families that attended and opened their scrapbooks, photo albums, and hearts to make this event a success. The “Profiles of Honor” staff want to return when we open the Heritage Center to continue collecting your history for the Library of Virginia Memory Database. The scans will be available to view through their website virginiawwiandwwii.org