COVID closing lets historical society study a World War II story more closely
LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - At the Rockbridge Historical Society, they keep records and artifacts of a lot of stuff.
“Rockbridge County is a county that has a lot of anchors in what some people call Big History,” explained Eric Wilson, the society’s executive director. “You know, president, generals, longtime institutions.”
But the real treasures can sometimes be found in the smaller, more personal stories, like Leroy Miller.
His story was brought in the form of a cache of family heirlooms, donated by his nephew.
“There are enough very personal family things,” Wilson said of the collection. “There are enough military things, there are images that are very striking.”
Miller enlisted after Pearl Harbor, and spent years training to become a gunner on a bomber.
“It’s a real portrait of what it takes to gain the expertise and skill in order to carry out missions like this,” Wilson said.
Missions Miller started flying from England in 1944.
“And in September,” Wilson said, “I don’t know the particular circumstances, but the family notes that he died in an air collision over Belgium.”
It’s all there, gathered and treasured by family for 75 years, and now preserved. But like with many items in museums, it can be difficult to find the time to give it the detailed study it deserves, until COVID shut down all the public activities.
“We’re finally getting to crack into them and figure out how to tell them in a certain scale,” said Wilson.
Now through online programs, which can bring to the public items like Miller’s last letter home, where he tells his sister about a church service timed so families in America can pray along. He never made it to that service.
Wilson said, “It was a real heart stopper to read that bit.”
Miller’s story is with others online on the Rockbridge Historical Society website.
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