It wasn’t just sweat Marion Touzel wiped from her face that blisteringly hot day in Manila. There were tears too.
Watching her give a eulogy for Field Director George Allingham, a civilian who died driving a Red Cross ambulance struck by mortar fire in the Balete Pass, you’d think she had known him well.
For the second time, Touzel, who teaches English at Ten Oaks Middle School, was part of the Understanding Sacrifice Program, a year-long project conducted by National History Day [NHD] and the American Battle Monuments Commission [ABMC].
The project commemorates the service, achievements and sacrifices of people who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Eighteen educators spend a year researching the life of a fallen hero, using local and archival resources. They attend lectures, study historical books and collaborate with staff at the NHD to form lesson plans. Ultimately, they deliver a eulogy at the serviceperson’s burial site.
Designed to invigorate the study of World War ll in American classrooms, lesson plans “transport students from the modern-day home front to the war front of the past,” she said.
Expenses for travel, supplies and courses are paid for, with participants responsible only for travel to and from Washington D.C. passport fees and personal expenses.
Last year, Touzel presented a eulogy in the Rhone Valley in France for George Burly Davis, a Spartanburg truck driver.
Burley funneled American supplies to Anzio, Salerno and Sicily, working with the 525th Port Battalion, and was shot and killed in February 1944.
Still in contact with Davis’ family, Touzel wanted to research another person, but didn’t want to do the traveling.
She had other plans, lots of them.
She retired from teaching after 20-plus years.
She and her husband Tim, also a retired educator, bought a home in Virginia.
She’d made arrangements to spend part of last summer traveling in Europe with her daughter.
But, Touzel, who’d taught English at Ocean Bay Middle School, was asked to come back and teach at Ten Oaks.
And, one of the teachers in the Understanding Sacrifice Program had a death in the family, leaving nobody to do the traveling leg of Touzel’s project.
Her husband said, “Go,” and her daughter said “Go,” and she went.
Touzel is no stranger to the hardships of war. Her Army mother had been a POW in Indonesia, and her Air Force father and his brother were prisoners of the Japanese.
Her father and uncle were held in the same prison camp, and each night, Touzel’s uncle risked his life to sneak to his brother.
The uncle carried Touzel’s father to the river each night, washing maggots from a wound Touzel said left a “humungous scar” on her father’s leg.
One night Touzel’s uncle didn’t show up, and her father spent the rest of his life believing his brother was killed on his way to help him.
Telling the stories of the fallen servicemen is important, she said, because without the stories, “people will forget. We must keep telling them.
“We need to know the stories of these young people who gave their lives. As humans, we need to be able to connect to our past, understanding these people and their willingness to give.”
Touzel, who was born in Indonesia and became an American citizen in 1993, said, “I don’t believe we should have borders. I believe we should be earthlings and humans, and treat each other with goodness and respect.”
Allingham’s story, Touzel learned, included being born in Massachusetts into a devoutly Catholic family “where he learned that to serve others was a way of life.”
He was an altar boy; he attended Fordham Preparatory School; he graduated Notre Dame at 20, and then he joined the Federal Theatre Project.
Allingham married Blanche Martin and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University, going on to be a professor of speech and drama.
Because he was an educator, and because of her own love of Shakespeare, Touzel felt a connection to Allingham, also a teacher, and committed to the theatre.
When the Pacific front escalated, Allingham joined the Red Cross and was assigned as a field director with the 35th Infantry.
He traveled with them to the Balete Pass in January 1945, and when he was killed driving an ambulance on the front lines, he was recommended for the Silver Star.
Working 12-hour days, Allingham’s responsibilities included helping servicemen contact their families, finding financial help for the men, organizing sports and recreational events, counseling, organizing mail and delivering it to the men at the front, and recruiting local Philippine Red Cross volunteers.
Seldom given to a civilian, the Silver Star is the third-highest U.S. combat-only award for acts of valor and gallantry in action in support of combat missions of the military.
To view Allingham’s story, visit www.ABMCEducation.org and then scroll to See The Fallen Heroes and find Allingham.
To view the eulogy Touzel’s wrote and delivered, scroll to the bottom of the Allingham section of See The Fallen Heroes, and click on his eulogy.
Touzel found Allingham’s niece, Marcella Watkins, and his nephew, George, Allingham’s namesake.
The younger George Allingham now has his uncle’s silver star.
With a catch in her voice and tears on her face, Touzel closed Allingham’s eulogy with the words of Shakespeare’s character, Titus Andronicus:
“Make way to lay them by their brethren. There greet in silence, as the dead are wont, And sleep in peace, slain in your country’s wars! O sacred receptacle of my joys, In peace and honor rest you here, my sons.”
Will Touzel research another fallen hero next year?
“I don’t know,” she said. “I didn’t plan to do one this time.”
And as for the new house in Virginia – “It might be a nice place to go in the summers.”