Honoring fallen heroes: Americans pay tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice

Hull Baptist Church honors local hero killed in final days of World War I


HULL, Ga. — Sharon Reid is proud of her great uncle Harry Spratlin, a Georgia soldier killed in action in the waning days of World War I.

Reid and her cousins gathered this Memorial Day weekend to lay a wreath at the base of his headstone in a rural cemetery just up the road from the farm where he was raised.

Spratlin’s family is among countless Americans who are taking time this Memorial Day to honor fallen heros.

“Memorial Day should be a time of solemn reflection, giving thanks to God and honoring those who gave their lives for the values we cherish and the many freedoms we enjoy as a nation,” said retired U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Douglas Carver, a native of Rome, Ga. and director of chaplain services for the SBC’s North American Mission Board.

The congregation at Hull Baptist Church outside Athens, concerned that Spratlin had been  inadvertently left off local war memorials, made sure he was recognized in a major way this year. The church's interim pastor, historian Charles Jones, spent a month pouring over records to write a  full account of the  young hero's life and produced a video that was shown  in Sunday morning's worship service. 

Spratlin had left behind his newlywed wife, Leonie, when he deployed to the frontlines of what came to be known as “the war to end all wars.” His wife anxiously awaited his return. Instead, she received the awful news.

“I just can’t imagine,” Reid said. “She had dreams, and they were all dashed in that moment. My heart goes out to her.”

Records don’t reveal precisely how Spratlin died, whether from a bullet, a grenade, or poison gas. What they do reveal is that his outfit was heralded for its tenacity in combat against the Germans in France.

Jones said Spratlin’s division earned the nickname The Rock of Marne.

“It just makes me melt,” said Spratlin’s great, great nephew Morris Bullock, standing over Spratlin’s grave. “He gave his utmost.”

President Joe Biden said in a Memorial Day proclamation that the debt Americans owe fallen heroes can never be repaid.

“For generations, stretching back to the formation of our country, these courageous people answered duty’s call, willing to give their lives for that which we all hold dear.  They fought for our independence.  They defended our democracy.  They sacrificed for our freedom.  And today, as they lie in eternal peace, we continue to live by the light of liberty that they so bravely kept burning bright around the world.”