In my day job, I’m a senior copywriter for a digital design company.
It’s a pretty good gig, really. The work is (usually) interesting, my coworkers are phenomenal and, most of all, I get to spend all day thinking about how to tell stories on the Internet. Granted, they’re stories about why you should use our clients’ products and services, but it’s a unique challenge every day – no two pages or ideas or products are exactly the same, but the end goal is to elicit a positive response from the user and inspire them to do something.
On a recent project, I fell into the role of content strategist after a freelancer made a mess of things. For non-industry readers, a Content Strategist is the person who determines what information on a website (the “content”) is most relevant to the end goal, and decides on the best way to get said content to the most people (the “strategy”). It’s the sort of thing that’s easy to overlook until it’s way too late; then you end up with a prettily designed and coded website that doesn’t do what you need it to do.
During the course of this project, and while working on First Battalion, 24th Marines, I wound up thinking hard about the purpose behind MissingMarines. I started it sort of on a whim in 2011, without any idea of what I was getting into or how much of my life this research would consume. The idea was to bring three Marines home, and tell some good stories along the way. I could help a few other researchers out, talk to some veterans and family members, commiserate about problems with JPAC, and post occasional updates about the status of various cases. And so it progressed, without a strategy, in fits and starts.
Then JPAC went away. The DPAA took over. History Flight, KUENTAI-USA, BentProp, WFI and others started appearing in the news. Expeditions to Tarawa, the exhuming of the USS Oklahoma unknowns, more and more names highlighted in “red-for-recovered” on a list kept in near-stasis since December 7, 2011. There’s been a long-overdue change. And it’s made the original format of MissingMarines obsolete. That’s no sour grapes statement – it’s the way things should be. Never did I ever think that the rate of recoveries would outpace the occasional blog post. It’s good news beyond imagining.
Holladay, Prince, Broznya, Saini and Haraldson. So far this year. No longer names on a wall or website, no longer a question mark in histories and hearts. The flesh and blood is gone, but the bones return, the books close, the worries rest.
A gentleman named Herb left a comment here in 2015. He had a neighborhood buddy named John F. Prince. He remembered when Prince and the “older guys” (teenagers, all) went off to war, and the day when his obituary ran in the paper. He searched for years to find out what happened. Killed at Tarawa. Remains unknown. In memory only.
Now, thanks to History Flight, Prince is coming home. I found Herb’s comment, passed the word, and now Herb’s telling the neighborhood and the VFW (incidentally, it’s the John F. Prince Post) and, I hope, making plans to attend the funeral.
And, thanks to Herb, I think I know what the new purpose of MissingMarines is. It’s not a breaking news blog (although I must call out longtime follower and commenter TF, who is an unerring source of information – thank you a million times over). It’s a repository. A memorial, I suppose, if one wanted to call it that. An interactive memorial of their stories, pictures, and memories. Something to keep a part of them alive, or to amplify that part that their friends and families have kept alive, in hopes of their eventual return.
Which brings me back to the whole bit about content strategy. The website looks different now. A lot of pages are being revamped and rewritten. Pages are being reorganized. Though the focus is shifting, this site will always strive provide research and advice of the highest quality to all comers. Posts and pages are a bit buried for now; they’re still here (via search or scrolling through the blog) until I can get them reorganized.
As always, MissingMarines fully supports the work of the various organizations bearing the responsibility of fieldwork, DNA testing, and eventually repatriating these men. Wherever a marine’s body may lie, his story lives here.
And still we wait for Arthur Ervin, William Ragsdale, and Bobby Thompson to come home….