Remembering those who served: Kokomo retiree lists thousands in online memorial

·4 min read

May 29—Raised by veterans and related to "the fightin'est Marine" Dan Daly, one Kokomo resident has a profound appreciation for Americans who served with the U.S. military.

Justin Daly, a retiree from the Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department, spends at least one hour most days registering people in the World War II online memorial.

The virtual memorial reached out to notify Daly he had passed 10,000 entries earlier this year. Specifically, Courtney Dock, deputy director of public affairs for the American Battle Monuments Commission, said Daly has registered 10,052 people in the online registry.

However, Daly noted that he has older accounts the organization might not be counting. Those accounts, he estimated, would add an additional 1,000 registrations to his name.

The Registry of Remembrances is an unofficial record of public gratitude for U.S. citizens who contributed to World War II efforts.

Daly explained he's been interested in World War II history since he was young. Both of his parents served during the war, and his mother liked to research the topic with him.

His father, John Daly, served in the Army and his mother, Rita O'Leary Daly, served in the Navy.

When the online World War II Memorial Registry launched, Daly said, it was primarily marketed as a way for people to show gratitude to family members. He registered his parents first, as well as his aunts and uncles.

Then he learned registrators could list anyone who contributed to the war effort, not just family members.

"Automatically, I assumed everybody else put their family in," Daly said, adding there were also plenty of celebrities who contributed to the war effort.

When he went to look for various celebrities, though, their names weren't listed.

"I said, well, I might as well send the names because I know their biographies and I have a pretty good library of things," Daly said.

The amount of celebrities who aren't accounted for still surprises Daly. The estates of Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell failed to register the artists, presidential families forget to list their relatives and movie stars such as Ingrid Bergman are left out of the list.

In some cases, Daly reaches out to surviving family members or organizations to let them know he's added a relative to the online memorial. He said Hillary Clinton signed a printout of her father's listing, which was written by Daly.

One of the reasons so many names are missing from the directory, Daly suspects, is a lack of awareness. He said the online registry wasn't advertised very well, and news of the directory was slow to reach surviving World War II veterans.

Daly also pointed out the U.S. military was under criticism for its involvement in the Middle East when the online directory was released.

A history of remembering

He remembers reading the "Men-at-Arms" series, from Osprey Publishing, with his mother. In one edition, there was a single paragraph dedicated to women who served in the U.S. Navy.

His mother, Daly said, took offense to the lack of depth.

Together, they compiled photographs and wrote a letter to the publisher requesting a greater effort to honor women in the armed services.

However, Daly's mother didn't live long enough to see the second edition. She died in 1988.

When the revised copy of the book came out in 2001, Daly decided to order a copy.

The book was delivered in a brown paper bag. It was the only piece of mail that day. His father opened the package and asked why Justin had ordered it.

Reaching for his book shelf, Justin produced the first edition he and his mother had read together. His mother's notes were still tucked away in the book.

Flipping through the pages of the book's second edition, this time with his father, the two recognized a familiar face. His mother had been illustrated in the book wearing her Volunteer Emergency Service Navy uniform.

"It was kind of a shock," Daly said, adding that his father who had been teasing him about the book seemed even more surprised.

It was his turn to tease his father.

"I said, 'I know what happened to you. You fought your way halfway across the Pacific and came back and married America's prettiest sailor,'" Daly said.

Although Daly has an interest in the armed forces, he is not a veteran.

He considered joining an officers program with the Navy after finishing high school, but his parents encouraged him to go to college instead.

"My parents, that was the era they came up," Daly said. "That was the improvement of the world, sending their kids to college."

With a passion for history and political science, Daly decided to get his degree in journalism.

Although he was never hired as a journalist, writing he submitted has been published in newspapers. One of the articles, he said, was a letter to the editor showing appreciation for veterans.

"Patriotism goes beyond the actual veteran," Daly said. "It gets into the parents, brothers and sisters and everything like that."

James Bennett III can be reached at 765-454-8580 or james.bennett@kokomotribune.com.