Remembering My Great-Grandfather, Veteran of World War I

Burt Herman Browning Fitzgerald GA World War I Veteran NC Infantry Photograph Collection of Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014Burt Herman Browning, Veteran of World War I (1892-1951), Photographed in Fitzgerald, Georgia, 1939

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.



Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--, Fitzgerald GA

16 responses to “Remembering My Great-Grandfather, Veteran of World War I

  1. Mark Helfer

    Thanks for sharing this history about your Great Grandfather.

  2. sonny seals

    Thanks for sharing this. I am always moved by the stories of Americans who were caught up in global events, did their duty and came home to live their lives in such unassuming ways. The more I find out about WW1, the more brutal it becomes. Thanks for reminder.

  3. Debbie

    Thanks for sharing your great grandfather’s photo and story. We should always remember our veterans. Debbie

  4. ryanware

    Thanks for sharing that, Brian. The only WWI veteran I knew growing up was a family friend who was very poor. I remember us taking him back and forth to the VA in Sioux Falls, SD which was about 90 miles away. I was under 12 years old and remember he was fun to talk to and he was the best gardener I had ever seen. His stuff was always earlier or bigger than anyone else’s in the area. He always competed with my grandmother on who would have “marble” potatoes first.

    Thank you, vets, for serving!

  5. Jesse M. Bookhardt

    Your tribute to your great grandfather is meaningful. To honor and show appreciation to our veterans, each year I write an email to personal family members, and friends that served. The sacrifices they made, should never be taken for granted, nor forgotten.
    Dear Vets,
    As a nation, we have been around only since 1776 when we declared our independence from England. Actually, it wasn’t until 1783 through blood and sweat that we were successful in making our independence a reality. Since the beginning, our nation through its armed forces have beaten back the devils of national and international despotism, terrorism, and piracy. From sea battles against the Barbary Pirates of North Africa, to our current struggle against modern terrorist, we have waged a tenacious and decent fight for principles of justice and democracy.
    During the War of 1812, the British burned the Whitehouse and almost brought her “rebellious” American kin back into her colonial “fold”; Yet, we resisted and with limited resources fought that war to a draw. The regulars, the militias, the small navy, and some unexpected allies like Jean Lafitte, the pirate from New Orleans, saved our hides and pushed forward our destiny as an independent rising “star”.
    Over the years, our warriors have defended us with honor. We owe our very nationhood to those who were willing to risk all to defend philosophical, and psychological concepts that represent the United States of America. If we are to remain free, it is fitting and proper that we remain strong enough to carry the day. Just as we should support our forces “over there,” back home we must take care of them as well.
    When I was just a little boy growing up on the farm near Snipesville, Georgia, I always admired those in uniform and thought that one day, perhaps I would wear the uniform too. An opportunity to go to college led me in a different path. To all those who served, I respect, honor, and thank you for your contribution.
    At Excelsior School at Snipesville, I remember clearly that when November 11 came around, that we would assemble in the auditorium for a special event. I don’t remember all the parts of the ceremonies, but do remember that we sang patriotic songs and listened to a special ringing of the Liberty Bell over the radio, commemorating the end of World War I. Back then the day was called Armistice Day.
    Over the years, I was told stories by my daddy about how his brother, my Uncle Buck, went off to war. The Bookhardt family escorted Uncle Buck down the Wire Road to the train station in the little hamlet of Grover, South Carolina. With the train belching coal smoke and its bell ringing, there they bade him adieu, along with many other young men of the community who were joining American forces destined to participate in the war against the German “Huns” of Europe. These patriots were eager to do their part on the seas against the U-boats and in the trenches with the American Expeditionary Forces under General “Black Jack” Pershing. Cousin Hoyt Ulmer Bookhardt also served. To honor his service, his family donated his Army Captain’s uniform to a small community museum in St. Matthews, South Carolina where it can be seen today.
    World War I was fought to make the world save for democracy, and today our warriors are fighting for the same. To all the vets, we wish you well and again thank you for all you did for our nation. We are proud of each of you.
    Jesse M. Bookhardt

  6. Walt Lehner

    God bless him and all veterans past and present.

  7. Diana

    On 11/11/2014 2:54 PM, Vanishing South Georgia Photographs by Brian Brown wrote: > > Brian Brown posted: ” Burt Herman Browning, Veteran of World War I > (1892-1951), Photographed in Fitzgerald, Georgia, 1939 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 Browni” >

  8. Jackie Johnston

    Just one more amazing story of sacrifice these brave men and women did for our country. We must never forget them. God Bless them. Thanks for sharing your personal story.

  9. Mark Helfer

    It was nice to see your tribute to your grandfather, and remembering all Veterans. It’s much appreciated.

  10. Paul Wetherington

    Thanks Brian,
    When I returned home from Vietnam in 1969 the greatest thing that happened to me was that my older brother and his wife introduced me to Susan, my wife now for 45 years. Yesterday we returned from a flight to Dallas TX to see a new Grandbaby and on Sunday we attended their church where the pastor asked all the veterans to please stand. After the applause some of us started to sit down (like we typically do) but he said no don’t sit down yet I want to say a special prayer for you. The special prayer caught me by surprise. After the amen I felt truly honored.
    Paul Wetherington

  11. thomas e bell

    I just wanted to say thank you for the share I live with my partner who has suffered from the toxic effects of agent orange and it is a daily battle to keep going we just do the best we can and deal with it , and thank you again and god bless you for the photo’s you always share it’s wonderful

  12. Judith Braswell-VanScoy

    What a wonderful tribute to your Great Grandfather! The Federal Government is still not taking care of its veterans. How sad. Although I did not participate in combat because of restrictions to females during the Vietnam War, I was stationed at an Army post where different mixtures of poisonous gas, etc. were manufactured. Chemical, Biological, and Radiological horrors. And to make matters worse, the groundwater was soaked with PCBs, coming from Monsanto plant up the river. Thousands of veterans, male and female were exposed to all sorts of dreadful things; moreover, many have already died from horrible diseases. I was diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma a few years back; and while it is a deadly form of cancer, I am one of the few survivors because it was caught in time. Veterans who have tried to get help have been turned away as is the usual response of the VA. Thank you for honoring your veteran and for bringing attention to the lack of care by the very people the American voting public has put in office. By the way, the post is now considered by the EPA as a :Toxic Waste Facility. Check out Toxic Ft. McClellan, Alabama, and read the EPA’S report.

    • Michael Strong

      Hi Judith,

      McClellan is partially still open. The AL National Guard OCS is there. I am in the Army Resrve and our Chem Co is at Norde Hall the old NBC school house. We are now refered to as CBRN Soldiers. Plus now large parts of McClellan are Homeland Security facilities.

  13. Bryan,

    What a fitting tribute to your G Grandfather. Thanks for sharing the sacrifices he and your G Grandmother made. As you said, that is just what people did then. Amen.

  14. brendaseabrooke

    I wonder if he was photographed officially by the army prior to deploying to France. Jim’s father was there too in the quartermaster corps he was older -39.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Thank you so much, Brian, for sharing this beautiful tribute to your great grandparents! Those remaining at home did indeed suffer hardships and trying times until their partners returned – alive, but not always well enough to function. They were extremely courageous folks who need all the recognition and respect we can muster! Thanks again, Charles

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