In honor of all those serving today and in memory of those who have gone before us, I’m sharing a photograph of my great-grandfather, Burt Herman Browning, who as a veteran of the French theater in World War I represents the sacrifice of service. He was gassed with mustard gas and suffered shell shock in the trenches of Alsace and though he survived the war, he suffered the effects for the remainder of his life. A native of Scotland, Georgia, he mustered into the North Carolina infantry because he was working there at the outbreak of the Great War. Upon his return he married my great-grandmother (Sadie Harrell Browning) in Eastman, and after traveling around from one South Georgia town to another they finally settled in Fitzgerald in 1929. The damage of war made it difficult for him to farm or do manual labor and he was a grocer and small store owner as long as he was able to work. Much of his life in between working was spent shuffling back and forth between Fitzgerald and the Veterans Hospital in Gulfport, Mississippi. It made my great-grandmother’s life difficult, but since the government wouldn’t do its part for veterans, then as now, she worked in various textile mills around Fitzgerald and helped provide. That’s just what people did.
I don’t have a photograph of my great-grandfather in his uniform. I’m not sure if there ever was one or if his flashbacks motivated my great-grandmother to do away with them. But I’m lucky to have his dog tags.