Residence: Warner Robins
President of the Sons of the American Revolution, Ocmulgee chapter
Q: As a descendant of a Revolutionary War veteran, how do you think of the Fourth of July?
A: I guess some people wonder if it’s still relevant but I certainly think it is. We’re a nation that seems so polarized by political parties and differing views today but we forget it was very much like that way back in 1776 when they signed the Declaration of Independence. Maybe it seems more so today because we have so much news and commentary, but there were many different views and strong opinions our forefathers had to hammer out. They weren’t at all certain of the outcome and knew their lives were in danger. Yet they forged ahead confident they could work things out.
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Q: So you see the Fourth as more than just a celebration? There’s hope for the present in it?
A: I think so. Our freedom has always involved struggle, but in America we’re free to discuss and give input, vote and help make the best decisions for our mutual good and future. We’re blessed we have a civilian government that’s never been overthrown and shouldn’t take that for granted. We should continue our deep faith in the democratic process as we face the unknown, just as our forefathers did and hoped we would.
Q: Does being in SAR enhance your belief?
A: Absolutely. But let me say that SAR is a nonpolitical organization. We don’t get into party politics but we do support the American principles of freedom, our institutions and democratic form of government — of the people, by the people, for the people.
Q: SAR supports that ideal, but what would you say the overall purpose of the group is?
A: It’s essentially a genealogical organization that honors our patriot ancestors involved in the Revolutionary War, 1776-1781, and the principles they fought for. Our sister organization is the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Q: What’s required to join SAR?
A: Anyone can visit meetings and we encourage that, but to be a member you have to have a blood relative who served in the Revolutionary War. It has to be documented from actual, physical records and not just something on the internet. Most people think they probably don’t have a relative or couldn’t find out if they did, but you’d be surprised. You start with what you know and go from there and we’re glad to help. Our registrar, James Stallings, does a tremendous job giving guidance. It’s usually a pretty exciting search.
A: They have celebrities searching out their ancestors on TV now but the past is a mystery everybody has and it can be just as exciting, just as interesting for each of us.
Q: How did your search go?
A: I didn’t know anything about having an ancestor in the Revolutionary War but my dentist got me interested. With help I discovered Charles McCall of South Carolina who was involved in a skirmish fought on his property. That was the beginning and now I’ve documented two relatives and have three others I’m researching. I discovered things like being related to three uncles, brothers of Charles McCall, who fought with Francis Marion, the Revolutionary hero known as the Swamp Fox, and that Sydney Lanier is a cousin. It’s really like a personal mystery you unravel. I found it to be a great legacy I can give my children and grandchildren.
Q: How many are involved locally?
A: We have 85 members in the Ocmulgee chapter and I know that’s just scratching surface. There are thousands who are eligible.
Q: When and where do you meet?
A: At 6:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month at Golden Coral in Macon, 4704 Presidential Parkway. You can get more information at www.georgiasocietysar.org or call me at 478-953-9320.
Q: Practically speaking, what does SAR do to honor patriotic ancestors?
A: We offer education and are happy to speak to civic groups, schools and other organizations, sometimes even in period accurate costumes. We support our armed services, our area Junior ROTC programs by recognizing outstanding cadets, we care for and provide commemorative markers for Revolutionary War veterans’ graves, we have an honor guard that serves at various events and ceremonies statewide and the honor guard and SAR members attend local naturalization ceremonies and typically give a brief congratulatory speech. The list goes on with other community service plus there’s our annual black-tie George Washington Dinner near his birthday each year.
Q: If the word patriot is used too many times in a sentence these days, it may take on a connotation related to aberrant militia groups and what-not. Any thoughts on that?
A: That can be true. Patriotism can be a subterfuge masking some other purpose, but we celebrate true, original American patriots who fought tyranny under King George. We now have a democratic process where, as I said, we can debate and sort matters out and find our way forward peaceably. That’s why we have elections.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the meeting day of the Ocmulgee Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and how John Trussell is related to Francis Marion. The group meets on the third Tuesday of every month, and Trussell is related to three men who fought with Marion.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.