I had something happen recently that’s irritated the heck out of me, so I thought I’d share it, and also hope it helps rid me of the ire and disappointment that’s been brought about.
Before I get into the real meat of this Pondering, I want to give you just a little of my background, because it will have a bearing on this “issue” later.
I have a BS in English, with a minor in journalism – definitely remember that little tidbit. I am a retired Certified Shorthand Reporter for the State of California. Translation: I was a court reporter and reported depositions and arbitrations after administering oaths to tell the truth to a few thousand people for just shy of twenty-five years. One of my hobbies is genealogy. About a year ago my friend Di – our own Dinca here at The Pond – introduced me to Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m now addicted, and I’ve had a blast researching my family. That new interest led me to the History and Genealogy Room at the Tulare Public Library in Tulare, California, where I currently volunteer two days a week.
Now to the issue at hand.
About two weeks ago – a Thursday, to be exact – while in the Genealogy Room, a letter was received concerning a lost Purple Heart, the medal honoring those injured or killed in service to our country, and we were asked to aid in the discovery of any information about the fallen soldier’s family so the medal could be returned. Though our research usually goes in the opposite direction, discovering the past, I happily began gathering clues.
Locating the obituary of PFC Norval A. Monroe, I found a number of surviving family members in 1944 and 1948, when he was buried in Tulare county. Researching further, I discovered his brother had also passed away in 2011, so I obtained that obit, too, now knowing I would find what I was looking for. Thus, that is how I learned PFC Monroe has two nieces and two cousins who still live in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California. With a little more leg work, I got my hands on a phone number for one of his nieces, giving her the news about her uncle’s medal and that it would soon be returned to where it belongs, making sure it was okay to pass along her phone number.
Now let me quote a bit from a news clip from KGET.com, the local television affiliate that is handling this particular story:
“A lost Purple Heart medal is headed back to its rightful owner. It was found in a Tulare pawn shop six years ago. Next week, it will be given to the family of the veteran who earned it.
It’s all thanks to the work of archiving students at Bakersfield High School who tracked down the family in a matter of days.”
There’s also a video of the newscast this printed matter is taken from, which can be seen here.
An archiving student is quoted as saying, “Just his name and that he was in the military, that’s about all I had.” That’s why the Genealogy Room was contacted. That’s why we researched microfilm, printed copies of obituaries, found current phone numbers.
A further quote by the same student, “To track down his family took the longest part of it.”
“Eventually, the students found Monroe’s niece living in Visalia” [California].
Guess yet what I’m worked up about? Every word of this “report,” even the newscast, makes it sound like these students are the ones who discovered this information, that they “tracked down” the family. What’s happened to give credit where credit is due, for heaven’s sake? What’s happened to basic truth, especially in young folks today? Maybe I should have been around to administer a few oaths.
I’m a former journalist, remember? I know all about the five Ws of journalism and how to impart the truth in journalistic writing. Just the facts, ma’am. I spoke directly with that news reporter just this past week. Thursday, to be exact. I even did more research for her at that time, locating the photo of the headstone that is used in the newscast, something they’d have only by making the journey to the cemetery, but I saved them the trip. That reporter is fully aware of our involvement in this situation. Yet not a word about help from the Genealogy Room. It’s as though we were never contacted.
Am I too harsh calling it a lie? At first I thought so, especially because students are involved. Maybe something was said by one that just didn’t make the final cut. I know they are also aware of our involvement, because I spoke to Ken Hooper, who is also mentioned. He’s the one who wrote the letter to us asking for help. I gave him all the information I found, of course including PFC Monroe’s niece’s phone number. Yes, it’s my assumption he passed the info on, only because he did say he was going to, though to whom, I don’t know. Is misleading a better term to use? Maybe. Either way, it’s wrong.
I was thrilled to have been part of such a happy and momentous occasion. Honored. Now it’s been tainted. I was happy to do it all, the reason I volunteer in the Genealogy Room, which houses the largest genealogical collection in Central California and which has some of the best researchers you’ll find. I’m still learning from them, they and the room deserve the mention. Just based on principle, however, the principle of truth and fairness, this entire report needs a number of revisions, a few added truths.