'Letters From the Front' gives a deeper look at lives lost in battle

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum observed Memorial Day with a special event called "Letters from the Front."

Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said the free program was held so that the public could reflect on those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we all enjoy.

Family and friends of service members read aloud authentic letters written by and for service men and women killed in the line of duty.

"We thought it was a good way for the public to connect with the personalities," he said. "The people that actually wrote these letters and those that ultimately paid the final sacrifice."

The letters came from as far back in time as the Civil War and as recent as the conflicts in the Middle East. Burdette said that despite the difference in time, there were striking similarities.

"There was a little bit of difference in the language, but you could be reading a letter from 2004 or 1864 and the subject matter's the same," he said. "It talks about hardships, it talks about love of those that are at home waiting. It talks about the dangers and the hope of a better life after the conflict's over."

Navy Veteran Sam Kirton served in Vietnam and said the letters served as a look at history and offered the opportunity to honor those who never returned to their loved ones.

"It reflects back through the ages from the Civil War right on to today for the ones that didn't make it back home," he said. "This is a day for the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice."

Kirton said he wanted to spread the word of Memorial Day's real meaning because many younger people don't understand.

"Over half the population out there don't have a clue about what Memorial Day is all about," he said. "They think it's a day to go to the's not another day to go to out the beach. It's (about) the ones that didn't come back from going to war."

World War II veteran Herman Driggers agreed.

"First of all, we need to be thinking about God," he said. "This country has to straighten out and go back to how it used to be."

Burdette said the day is important, even though most of us don't even know about wartime struggles or have experienced the loss of someone in battle.

"We hear the names on the news and we hear that some soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, Marine got killed and we think about it briefly and how sad it is but we don't really know anything about them," he said. "We don't know what they were thinking, what their hopes and dreams were, whether they had family or not back home. So this is an opportunity to let people see it from that standpoint."

He also said that while it is important to reflect on the losses of life for our freedoms, it's o.k. to also enjoy that freedom.

"Frankly, if everyone would just take one hour and think about the sacrifices that have been given, and then go do what most of these soldiers fought for...that you can go live your life the way you wish to, in freedom, and enjoy your families. Something that they didn't get to do."