The Time Traveler was among many who watched with awe and reverence as hundreds of remaining World War II soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, along with Coast Guard and Reserves, traveled to the white sandy beaches of Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of that epic battle to save mankind from the dominion of evil and tyranny.
Most were stopped and frail with age, but their heads were held erect and their shoulders stiffened as the “Star Spangled Banner” echoed magnificently across the beach, as the waves crashed and the wind ruffled Old Glory and flags of the civilized nations who defeated Adolf Hitler and his maniacal plan of destruction and domination.
Some forget the war that occurred just two decades before, supposedly the “war to end all wars,” World War I. Again, Germany was attempting to capture Britain and parts of Europe in that twisted quest for control of the old Germanic empire.
Many boys from DeSoto County gave their lives in that war. And an effort is underway by DeSoto County officials to document those men and women who died overseas, never to set foot on their beloved home soil again. Kudos to Bryan Riley, Chuck Davidson, Lynn Ford and others for heading up that effort.
During the First World War, Mississippi lost 440 soldiers and Marines who died over there. Of this number, 14 were from DeSoto County. Eight of those men who would die on foreign soil in service to their country were Howard M. Farris, Thomas Gaines, Walker A. Gaines, Henry Johnson, John R. Journikin, Drew Strickland, George A. Thompson and Emmette S. Vaiden. Much of this research was done by Tim Harrison and credit should go to him.
The following is a tale of two brothers who gave their lives for their country and left the small community of Love devastated and grieving for their loss.
Of this number, several would die on the front lines in France and elsewhere. Thomas Morehead Gaines, a Love native, arrived on the front lines on June 15, 1918 and served in Company E, 114th Infantry Regiment, 57th Infantry Brigade, 29th Division. Morehead, as he was called, was wounded and gassed while on the front lines, and died on Sept. 24, 1918.
His brother, Walker Anderson Gaines took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and was killed on Oct. 9, 1918, when his brigade, Company C, 334th Machine Gun Battalion, attacked German positions.
According to the Times-Promoter, both brothers are now “resting in France with the unreturning brave.”
An effort is underway to document all these soldiers buried abroad. Any information about a soldier or service member buried overseas can be directed to Curator, DeSoto County Museum, P.O. Box, 866, Hernando, MS 38632.
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.