BROOKFIELD — A Brookfield man has been working to preserve the stories of fallen soldiers for years.
He has amassed hundreds and created Hero Cards, which are similar to baseball cards. Instead of idolizing athletes or movie stars, he hopes more of the next generation will recognize the sacrifice our soldiers made to protect our freedom.
There are more than one million stories of fallen American soldiers Craig Du Mez could share, from the Revolutionary War to the present day. His mission is for more students to learn some of their stories, “It’s important for them to know that the freedoms that they enjoy came at a cost.”
Each of the soldier’s stories is laid bare on the back of each card. One of them includes Army Private Ellsworth De Bruine of Cedar Grove. It shares the pain his family went through when they learned the 26-year-old was killed just after D-Day, “It really kind of touched me, because the kids stayed in the barn, because the milking had to happen, and the dad had to go out to the field to tell mom that their son had been lost.”
Another shares the story of Second Lt. Ellen Ainsworth. The Army nurse is credited for saving more than 40 lives during heavy enemy fire in WWII.
If families do not have a great photo, Du Mez will help digitally restore them like he did for Air Force Technical Sgt. Dwight Louis of Oostburg.
Or, paint a picture of a fallen soldier himself, as Du Men did for Army Sgt. Alex Bongiorno of West Allis, who died while securing a bridge right before the end of WWII, “I wanted to show him crossing the stream under fire.”
One of the latest cards is of Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss who died in 2021 while helping Americans and allies evacuate Afghanistan. Du Mez said, “He went to fight the Taliban.”
Du Mez said of the photo, “What I liked about this is that the family said he loved that photo of himself it was his favorite photo of himself… all geared up—in location.”
His goal in the next five years is to get these Hero Cards into the hands of more students. Click here to learn more.