Jackson County

She knew not to throw it away, for ‘it looked like an heirloom’

It’s damaged and a little faded, but something told a Moss Point woman not to throw away this certificate of service honoring Robert L. Thompson for his part in World War II. She found it in a house in Hurley.
It’s damaged and a little faded, but something told a Moss Point woman not to throw away this certificate of service honoring Robert L. Thompson for his part in World War II. She found it in a house in Hurley. Sun Herald

It’s soon to be Veterans Day, but that wasn’t what was on Carol Horton’s mind when she found a commemorative photo display that had fallen behind a dresser long ago and been forgotten.

Horton was cleaning out a rental house she had purchased in Hurley when she came across the 18-inch by 24-inch colorful matte framing that encircled a black and white portrait of a man in uniform, looking serious through his glasses, in a crisp white shirt and tie, his military-issue hat cocked slightly to one side.

The matte frame surrounding the photo was aged and fragile but also colorful and impressive, with the American and British flags, the Statue of Liberty, an eagle and the words “Roll of Honor” and “Worlds Great War for Freedom.”

If nobody claims it, we’ll put it on a wall here.

Doug Mansfield, owner and operator of the GI Museum in Gautier

What she found was a service commemorative certificate that identifies the man in the picture as Robert L. Thompson. It also tells where and when he enlisted and that he served in the South Pacific in World War II.

“I don’t know if that’s someone’s family member or a person who lived in the house,” Horton said. “I didn’t know what to do with it.

“In my heart I knew I just couldn’t throw it in the trash.”

The picture has worn spots, but it’s in pretty good shape, considering the house had changed hands many times through the years and the certificate was sort of stuck to a wall at the baseboard.

What immediately came to Horton’s mind was looking for a way to reach out to any family members this man may have remaining, “someone who might want this picture.”

“To me, it’s an heirloom,” she said. “I feel personally, if someone had discovered it and it was my family member, I would want it.”

She contacted the Sun Herald, which put her in touch with Doug Mansfield, owner and operator of the GI Museum in Gautier.

He knew exactly what it was and offered to help her with connecting the certificate to Thompson’s family.

Even damaged, “you don’t throw it away. It’s a piece of history,” he said.

Mansfield agrees with Horton that it needs a home. It needs a place, not face down behind a dresser, stuck to a wall.

Mansfield said anyone who believes they know the family or Thompson can contact the GI Museum at 872-1943 or go to the museum. The museum is open Wednesdays and on the first and third Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“If anyone in the family recognizes him and wants it back, that would be great,” Mansfield said.

“If nobody claims it, we’ll put it on a wall here.”

What we learned from the certificate:

  • The wide border around the portrait was originally printed for World War I and was recycled for soldiers in World War II.
  • The words “Worlds Great War” are a clue. It’s what they called World War I, because at the time there was no second war. It was the Great War.
  • Another thing that gives away the WWI reference is the British flag with the American flag in the illustration.
  • The fact that Robert L. Thompson got one means he probably made it home from World War II.
  • The Thompson certificate shows he was in the 102nd Infantry Division, 802nd Ordinance Light Maintenance, and his rank was technician 4th grade. That means he worked on small rifles, pistols and machine guns.
  • Thompson enlisted in Mobile on Oct. 22, 1942, and was sent to Fort McPherson, Georgia. He later served in the South Pacific.
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