Sunday, October 18, 2009

National Archives Staffer Goes Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

I was caught off guard a couple weeks back after an unexpected package arrived from the National Archives. Inside I found photocopies of the military service record for a soldier who served in the Fifty-sixth U.S. Colored Infantry.

A few weeks earlier, I had requested his file only to learn that the MSRs from his regiment are part of an eighteen regiment group (Forty-seventh to Sixty-fifth) of files currently closed to researchers because Archives staff is microfilming them. A supervisor in the Archives library asked me to leave my address in the event that they might be able to help. While I appreciated her proactive suggestion, her tentative manner lowered my expectations and convinced me that nothing would come of my request. I resigned myself to the reality that it might be years before the file would appear in microfilm.

The arrival of the package surprised and delighted me. It also encouraged me to make a new request for the file of another soldier in the closed group — a sergeant from the Sixty-second. On Friday, I stopped by the Archives library and filled out the appropriate form. By coincidence I met the very person who mailed me the package, Dennis Edelin. He instantly recognized my name and asked me if there were any problems with the package he sent. Dennis promised to pull the file of the other soldier and send it to me.

The Archives staff could have easily rejected my request and forced me to wait for microfilming to finish — a scenario that would likely have prevented the stories of these two soldiers from ever making it into the book. But thanks to Dennis Edelin, their stories will be told and their images seen.

Thank you, Dennis.

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