BOUNTIFUL — More than 400,000 Americans lost their lives in World War II, and Bountiful resident Don Milne has made it his mission to make sure that each one of them is never forgotten — but he needs your help.
Milne is asking for the public’s help to take time to research and write stories about each of the U.S. soldiers killed in World War II, and he has created a way to do just that. His Stories Behind the Stars website allows people everywhere to choose the name of a fallen soldier and then research and write that individual’s story.
Milne said that he has teamed up with Ancestry.com as a research tool to help writers. He said his eventual goal is to have an app where all the names and stories of each WWII soldier who lost his or her life can be accessed in one database.
"We often glorify ‘heroes’ in fictional movies but forget the real heroes who died for our freedoms," Milne said. "These men and women who died missed out on being able to live their lives because they never came home. We need to give thanks to these people by giving stories behind the names we see at memorials. It is my hope that through the help of the public that we can get these stories written."
The process to write these stories, Milne said, is simple.
"There are hundreds of thousands of stories to be written, and we are just in the beginning stages," he said. "At this point, if people want to write stories, all they need to do is pick a name. Maybe they have an uncle, aunt or grandparent that they want to write about. Maybe there is no family tie, but only an interest. Just pick a name, and through my site, they will be given free access to Ancestry.com to gather the information to write the story and then submit it."
Milne said the stories don’t have to be long. So far, he said, he has had several hundred stories submitted from people all over the country — many he said have found the process enjoyable and even addicting.
"I have people from 30 states helping me," he said. "There is one woman from Minnesota who has written 150 stories in four weeks! It is kind of like a detective game; and with so many people staying home these days, it gives them something to do."
Milne has also written his share of stories. In his search, he found out about a family member that he didn’t know about until he started the project.
"I came across a fallen Marine who died at Iwo Jima with a last name and birth location that caught my attention," Milne wrote in an email to KSL. "It turns out it was my dad's second cousin. I had never heard of him from my family. A couple of days later I found out something even more interesting. My wife's uncle and my dad's cousin attended Jordan High School together and graduated the same year of 1943. What are the odds of that?"
While Milne said his vision is still in the beginning stages, he hopes that the public will see value in what he is trying to do. He said that as time goes by, many of the stories are fading, and it is up to us to keep them alive.
"For the families who lost loved ones in World War II, they were sent a flag with a gold star to hang in their window to show the sacrifice that was made, but these individuals are more than that," Milne said. "I hope people will see value in this project by helping to share the stories behind the stars."
To help Milne with the "Stories Behind the Stars" project, go to Storiesbehindthestars.org.