By Tim Ryan

The Rotary Club of Newport News recently hosted an enlightening talk by Edwin Fountain, Vice Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). During his presentation, Fountain walked us through the solemn duty of the ABMC, revealing the heartfelt stories of the American service members whose memory they preserve.

Fountain’s discussion highlighted the extensive efforts made by the ABMC to honor our fallen heroes. The organization, he explained, maintains 26 cemeteries and 32 monuments across 17 nations – a testament to the breadth of American sacrifices in the service of global peace. Each site reflects the bravery and sacrifices made by American service members in conflicts dating back to World War I.

Fountain introduced us to historical sites such as Brookwood and Cambridge in England, the Punchbowl in Hawaii, and even a site in Mexico City, offering an insight into the rich tapestry of American military history. However, his retelling did not stop at the geographical locations and the military operations. The ABMC’s mission, he emphasized, is not just about maintaining “the grass green and the headstones white” but about sharing the personal narratives and the humanity of the soldiers.

Stories like those of Dorothy and Gladys Cromwell, Red Cross nurses who tragically lost their lives during World War I, or Quentin Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who fell during the same conflict, give us a glimpse into the personal price of war. These narratives bridge the gap between generations and allow us to connect with these brave individuals on a deeply human level.

The ABMC is actively expanding its mission to educate and inform. Visitors’ centers at sites like the Normandy cemetery offer historical context, while partnerships with museums, universities, and online platforms widen their reach. These initiatives underscore the importance of keeping these stories alive, allowing the memory of the fallen to inspire future generations.

In closing, Fountain revealed the upcoming unveiling of a stunning 58-foot bronze sculpture at the World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C. We are eager to see this incredible artwork and its potential to bring the Great War’s narrative to life.

We are immensely grateful to Edwin Fountain for his insightful talk. His dedication and that of the ABMC serve as a stark reminder of the immense sacrifices made by American service members. By preserving their stories, we honor their memory and ensure their bravery continues to inspire us all.

Join us in thanking Edwin Fountain and the ABMC for their vital work in preserving our nation’s history and honoring our heroes. Together, we remember.