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June 17, 2009

For Immediate Release


By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. –More than a half century ago, dozens of young men left Taylor County and went to war.

Many of them didn’t return. Their names are enshrined on the Taylor County War Memorial on the grounds of the Taylor County Courthouse.

Many did return. They married, went to work, had families and put aside their memories of war as best they could. During the last year and a half, those surviving World War II veterans shared their stories of war with students at Campbellsville University.

Those stories have been published in a book titled “They Were Soldiers, The stories of those from Taylor County who served during World War II.”

The 75-page, soft-cover book will be unveiled on July 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the ground floor lobby of Carter Hall on the campus of Campbellsville University. Carter Hall is the third building located in the main entrance to the university.

The veterans featured in the book have been invited to the unveiling and to sign books for those who may wish to purchase copies.

A limited number of books will be available for $10 each. All proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for mass communication students at Campbellsville University.

“This began as a class project,” said Stan McKinney, assistant professor of journalism at Campbellsville University. “Journalism students spend much of their time writing. The idea of recording the stories of World War II veterans and publishing them appealed to many students.”

Thanks to a grant from the WEL (Writing, Engagement, Learning) Program at the university, funds to publish a book were obtained, McKinney said.

Rick Wilson, a senior journalism major, did most of the editing and layout of the book. McKinney also edited the book as did Dr. Susan Wright, an assistant professor of English; Calen McKinney, a staff writer for the Central Kentucky News-Journal; and Joan C. McKinney, news and public relations coordinator at the university.

The stories tell of friendships, hardships, survival and a struggle for freedom, McKinney said.

“I believe anyone who reads these stories will be impressed by the challenge these veterans faced and how they overcame them to secure our liberty during one of the darkest times in our world’s history,” 

McKinney said.

McKinney said one of the greatest difficulties in putting the book together was identifying living World War II veterans.

“Local media helped us spread the word about what we were doing,” 

McKinney said. “We were able to make contact with many veterans due to their willingness to help us identify World War II veterans. We made a final plea before going to press to ensure that as many as possible were included.

“I know that there mostly likely are World War II veterans who we were not able to identify and who should have been included in the book. I apologize to anyone and their families who was left out.”

Copies of the book will be given to the veterans.  Copies will also be donated to the Montgomery Library at Campbellsville University and to the Taylor County Public Library.

The veterans included in the book are: William Conrad Claycomb, Garnett Henderson, J. Lynwood Kessler, Herman W. Rattliff, Bill Sears, W.I. Rucker, Buford Wilson, Kenneth Eugene Alfrey, Rhoden Skaggs, J.C. Furkin, Robert Oldham, Turner Gaddie, Jimmie Graves, Robert “Bobby” Miller, Ralph Tesseneer and M.B. Gaskins.

Furkin died while the book was being prepared for publication. His wife has been invited to the book signing.

There are several photos in the book of the veterans as they appeared during the war as well as today.

“They Were Soldiers” is dedicated to those from Taylor County who died in defense of our country during World War II. The color cover features the Taylor County War Memorial.

For more information about the event, contact Stan McKinney at (270) 789-5035 or via e-mail at

Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,601 students who represent 93 Kentucky counties, 27 states and 31 foreign nations. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2009 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 22nd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South for the second consecutive year. CU has been ranked 16 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges®. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his tenth year as president.