This year on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, Mississippi State University Libraries will host an event celebrating our nation’s veterans who served during two of the biggest wars in world history, World Wars I and II. The event, titled “Through the Lines: Letters from Home and the Front, 1917-1945” will entail a reading of soldier correspondence during these historic time periods, according to the MSU website's event page.
“Through the Lines” will take place from 3-5 p.m. in the Mitchell Memorial Library’s third-floor John Grisham Room. Volunteers and current veterans from MSU’s G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans will read letters from the Earl Southworth Williford Collection and the Lt. Col. Rollins Armstrong Collection.
Jennifer McGillan, the coordinator of Manuscripts at Mitchell Memorial Library and the organizer of “Through the Lines,” outlined the event as personal in addition to historical.
“These letters, drawn from manuscript collections held in Special Collections in Mitchell Memorial Library, were selected and transcribed by myself and Manuscripts Librarian Carrie Mastley,” McGillan said. “These letters, many written by graduates of the University, highlight the commonality of the experiences across the generations, such as getting accustomed to the pace and structure of military life, and missing their homes, families, farms and Mama's chocolate cake.”
McGillan added that important milestones like the armistice that officially ended World War I will be covered. Celebrating Mississippi State University’s storied history with the military is, of course, not the only goal for “Through the Lines.” McGillan emphasized the widespread appeal of the collection and encouraged those who might want to contribute to its expansion.
“The letters shared during the program represent a small fraction of the whole, and we hope to encourage both faculty and students to use the collections for teaching and research. The letters support numerous lines of inquiry and would be of interest to scholars in multiple disciplines. And, while the collections contain letters from soldiers varying in rank from enlisted men to officers, who were from many different parts of Mississippi, who served in a variety of branches of the service, there is still a great deal of room for growth,” McGillan said.
Carrie Mastley, assistant professor of manuscripts at MSU who helped McGillan select and transcribe the letters said in a press release that the content of many of the letters deals with the soldiers' daily lives.
“A lot of the soldiers didn’t talk about the action because letters were heavily censored,” Mastley said. “There was one letter from a man recovering in a hospital who compared the food there to his mother's and wrote about how much he missed good, Southern, Mississippi cooking. It really shows what was in the forefront of veterans’ minds while they were away.”
Cameron Moffat, a senior physics major, said he is grateful “Through the Lines” will recognize the contribution of those who sacrificed so much for our nation.
“I think this is a great way to honor veterans. It’s good to know that the heroes of the present and past are being honored for their bravery and commitment protecting U.S. citizens.”
“Through the Lines” will be the first in a series of MSU events commemorating veterans, followed by the Fourth Annual Veteran’s 5K on Nov. 12, a presentation hosted by Shackouls Honors College and the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans on Nov. 13 and the annual Veterans Recognition game on Nov. 16 when MSU will host the University of Alabama in football.