By: Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty Institute
Peter Jackson’s documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” brings to life the men who actually fought in World War I. The silent, grainy, gray films from a century ago have long felt too remote and distant to convey the power, intensity and suffering that the war entailed. But Jackson changed all that. He added color, adjusted the film’s speed, and even hired actors to voice the dialog of the men as revealed by forensic lip readers.
Alvergia Guyton and Mary Laquay may not be Peter Jackson, but they have done the country a similar service in bringing to life their uncles of the same era.
John Henry Seaburn Jr., Alvergia’s uncle, fought in a segregated African-American regiment of the U.S. Army that was placed under French command – the famed “Red Hand Division.” He died of wounds received in combat.
Mary’s uncle, Thomas Fenwick, descended from a Revolutionary War patriot. Thomas died of pneumonia after being gassed in battle days before the war’s end in 1918.
These men are long dead, having sacrificed their all for the cause of freedom. If their mothers and The American Legion had not determined to build a visual reminder of their service and sacrifice, John Henry and Thomas would be more silent and forgotten than the black and white film strips recently restored by Peter Jackson.