LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As Memorial Day approaches, many Americans use the holiday as it’s intended -- to honor those who died while serving our country.
The day is particularly meaningful to a group of Louisville students.
For an entire school year, two classes of students at the J. Graham Brown School have invested in research, going back in time to learn everything they can about a group that’s become known as The Kentucky Boys.
If you overheard a group chat among some junior social studies students at the school, you might think they’re talking about classmates or other teens around town.
“I know he was qualified for a lot of awards,” one girl stated. “He went to Male High school,” said another student.
They’re talking about The Kentucky Boys: Bluegrass soldiers who died while serving in World War I and World War II.
Junior Davis Owens is one of the students studying the soldiers.
“He actually grew up fairly close to where I live now," Owens said of one of the fallen soldiers. “He lived on Cherokee Road.”
It’s a service project the students and their teacher, Alice Stevenson, are passionate about.
“The kids did an amazing job,” Stevenson said of her students’ investigations of the soldiers.
After a 2011 trip with former students to a Belgium cemetery, Stevenson discovered how grateful the people who live there were for the American sacrifice.
“They all adopt the grave of an American soldier,” Stevenson said. “It just hit me, that all those boys lay in those graves and no one’s ever been to see them.”
Stevenson’s uncles were wounded a day apart at the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944. She wanted to know more about The Kentucky Boys and hoped her students would, too. They did.
Every two years, students make the trip and document it. Each student began investing their time answering questions about each soldier, like, where were they raised?
“James F. Todd was very interesting because he lived in Jefferson County," junior Brianna Williams said.
She found out his home still stands on Sunnyside Drive.
While not many photographs exist of The Kentucky Boys and their surviving families, junior Chesslyn Bohler found some.
“His name was Private Delbert Gaines," she explained.
Junior Wil Jackson answered the question, what was their job in the military?
“Walter L. Monroe worked in a tank, he was in the First Armored Division,” he said.
Sadly, the students must also find out where and how The Kentucky Boys died.
“(One of the soldiers) died at the battle of Anzio, which was really just brutal warfare," Owens said.
Jackson added: “I can’t imagine how scary or terrifying that would be. But they were so brave to do this and put their life on the line.”
The students know it will be an emotional trip, especially when they put down their Kentucky flag at the gravesite and deliver a letter they’ve written for the family.
“My main priority is to convey a thank you,” Owens said.
Those letters and all the student research will go into a file for the cemetery office.
The students will head out this summer for an 11 day trip to Europe.