GUYTON — Little is known about Pvt. Harry Sheffield. His voice was silenced by death near the end of World War I and he rested in anonymity at Fergerson Cemetery for more than a century.
On Thursday, a long-delayed light beamed on the soldier during a flag-folding tribute conducted in his honor by VFW Post 12149. The 13-minute event led by Chaplain Henry Walker Jr. coincided with the recent addition of a grave marker for Sheffield (1893-1918).
“This is the first time we’ve ever had anything like this,” Pearl Boynes said after the ceremony. “It’s really nice. Somehow or another, he got lost years and years ago.”
Sheffield’s exact resting place is unknown but the marker was placed next to graves of his family members. His inclusion in the cemetery was discovered in Effingham Historical Society records by Joni Clarke of Find A Grave, whose mission is “to help people from all over the world work together to find, record and present final disposition information as a virtual cemetery experience.”
Sheffield’s cause of death remains a mystery.
“I don’t know if it was from a wound or a disease,” said Lucy Powell, a history buff and Fergerson Cemetery Committee member. “I think he was dead for a while before his body was sent home.”
VFW Post 12149 Commander Cleveland Williams said Thursday’s ceremony was the first of its kind conducted by his organization. It was invited by the Fergerson Cemetery Committee.
“We were giving (Sheffield) his proper respects,” Williams said. “If we are called on to do this again, we have a format now.”
The flag-folding unit featured Robert Hunter, Roland Holland, Rex Inman and Richard Cheely.
“I don’t know if you noticed it, but (Sheffield’s) death date was one month before the end of World War I,” Inman said. “He died October 12 and the war ended November 11. He almost made it.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Robert Hunter of VFW Post 12149 presented Sheffield’s flag to Boynes, who accepted it on behalf of the Fergerson Cemetery Committee, Effingham Historical Society and Guyton Historic Preservation Commission.