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A Shoals World War II veteran and prisoner of war was honored Friday at a special grave marking ceremony off of Chisholm Road in Florence.
Lt. Darrell Russell died in 2010. In the wake of grief his family didn't put any identifying markers on his grave for his military service. That's now changing thanks to other veterans.
Russell's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were all in attendance for the ceremony to honor him. Taps were played and a 21 gun salute was fired. Lt. Russell's youngest daughter, Juanita Williams, was presented with a flag.
"Very proud. Very honored that he was recognized for what he went through. He was a young man 23 years old," said Williams with tears in her eyes as she talked about her father. "The veterans did a wonderful job pulling together a program for him."
Lt. Darrell Russell was captured by the Germans in World War II, but he survived, came home and started his family. He and his wife had 9 children.
"He didn't talk about it as a child but as I got older I heard snippets," said Williams.
Before Lt. Russell died in he became close friends with Tom McKnight. The two history buffs and veterans shared many stories with each other and when McKnight found out Russell's grave wasn't properly marked he knew he had to do something.
"I had an opportunity to do something meaningful and be a part of a healing process," said McKnight.
Right now Russell's marker is being made with his military duty and honors on it. Then it will go on his final resting place for younger generations to recognize how freedom is not free.
"Listen to the stories they are the best story tellers and document it. He was a great writer and documented some of it for us and pass it down to the next generation," said Williams.
Every veteran is entitled to get a free marker at their grave. If your family member served and doesn't have a marker contact your local veterans administration service officer.
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