The Sumter area is home to many of South Carolina’s soldiers and veterans. The Sumter High school “Hands on History” class, under the leadership of Sammy Way, has conducted extensive research on the veterans in the Sumter community and are opening to the public a display of uniforms and nearly 1,000 photos of Sumter World War II veterans and others who have served in uniform.
Now retired from the classroom, Sammy Way tells, “We now have collected almost 900 World War II photographs and we’ve expanded it into Korea, Vietnam, Iraqi Freedom and now Afghanistan. We probably have over 1,000 photographs to be viewed.”
With more than five years of research on the project, the students became fascinated that there were so many from the area who were in uniforms. Research tells them that more than 4,000 from the Sumter community served in WW II.
According to Way, the project began when class members were restoring an old plaque that had the names of veterans who had been killed in World War II. The interest grew from there. “Many of the students, who were actively involved, had grandparents who served. They were able to draw a closer connection to their lives. One of the interesting features is that the students would see them when they were their age. And they realized what they were doing when they were 17 or 18 or 19. And rather than being in school or going to football games, these young people were in uniform, and probably in combat somewhere.”
The display will be in the forum of Sumter High School from November 12 through December 7 and is open to the public at no charge. There is handicapped access and visitors are encouraged to come during regular school hours, between 9 am and 4 pm. Way plans to be on hand much of the time to discuss the project and answer questions.