BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - One hundred years ago, thousands of young Alabamians were shipped across the sea, to defend our freedoms during World War One.
Their service and sacrifices are being commemorated in an exhibit that is now on display at the southern museum of flight called "Remembering the Great War: Alabama and World War One"
The traveling exhibit was created by professors and students at Auburn's Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities and the Alabama Department of Archives & History. Artifacts and photographs tell the story perspectives of Alabamians whose lives were shaped by the conflict.
"You're going to see story boards, life sized figures of people who participated, we have a trunk that an infantry person would have had and a lot of the things he would have had in there, like his bible and shaving kit," says Director and Curator Wayne Novy.
Military mobilization engaged Alabama almost immediately after the United States declared war in April 1917. Three training bases opened in the state, which had a large impact on the state's economy.
Novy says Alabama's role in the war, changed the state.
"At the time Alabama was not looked as a place where you were going to get your best and brightest soldier. A lot of that was because of the standard of living and education and health of the average citizen," says Novy. "Since then, Alabama has taken that as a source of inspiration to get people to become better, become healthier and more educated and that really has turned in the last century. Alabama sends more people to foreign lands to defend this country than any other state per capita."
More than 2,500 Alabamians were killed fighting in the fields of France during WWI. The state provided 5,000 National Guardsmen and 7,000 other volunteers, as well as 74,000 white and black draftees, called "selectmen," to the U-S Army.
Among those, was William M Cain. The 29 year old husband and father was African American famer from Limestone County. He was injured during the last few hours of the war, and his purple heart is now included in the exhibit.
To learn how you can see the exhibit, or for more details on the Southern Museum of Flight, visit their website http://www.southernmuseumofflight.org/