By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Two Starkville men are on a mission to make sure the veterans of Okttibeha County’s past will be remembered for generations to come.
Lifelong friends Barry Montgomery and Skip Agard, with a little help from the Junior ROTC students, have spent every Memorial Day, July 4 and Veterans Day for the last several years placing flags at the graves of veterans at several local cemeteries.
Over the years, they have started to wonder about the men and women whom they so faithfully honor three times a year.
“We both started putting out the flags at the same time. And you’ll see a tombstone that says ‘John Doe, WWII, U.S. Army.’ Well, who are you? What did you do? Were you scared? Who knows? Dead, gone and forgotten,” said Agard.
The men have decided to ask the public for help in making sure the stories of those veterans are told and remembered. They hope local citizens will send in what information they have on their relatives and friends buried in cemeteries around the county. Eventually the stories will be compiled into a book and given to the Oktibbeha County Historical Society.
“This is where we decided to go a little bit further, and possibly map the cemeteries, get everybody’s name and do what research we can. Because, when these stories are gone, they’re gone,” Agard said. “As family, they’re the only ones that know these stories. But when it’s over, it’s over. Send us the stories. We’ll write the book.”
There are hundreds of veterans buried throughout the county, representing nearly every major American war.
“It is such a honor to look out there and see how many people have served. It’s overwhelming,” Montgomery said.
Though they have no idea how many stories they will collect, they said they feel a duty to make sure the veterans of Oktibbeha County are remembered for their service to the nation.
“They all contributed, whether they were in the mess hall or on the front line,” Agard said.
The success of the project depends on the response they get from the public.
“It’s a piece of history. It needs to be done,” Agard said. “We’ll donate any time or money that’s needed. The problem is, we can’t make the stories up.”
If you would like to share the story of a local veteran, contact Skip Agard at firstname.lastname@example.org .