FARGO — Practicing historian and University of North Dakota doctoral student Janet Strand is ensuring those who died from the influenza pandemic of 1918 aren't forgotten.
Pvt. Floyd Fuller was a member of the Student Army Training Corps at UND. When he was inducted into service Sept. 1, 1918, in Fargo, he was bound for Grand Forks for service. He died October 24, 1918, from influenza.
"The University of North Dakota promised never to forget their names, but their names were never fully disclosed. How could the promise be kept?" Strand said.
She started her research in 2016 and discovered 27 members of the UND SATC who died from influenza. She verified her information through newspaper sources, census records, registration cards and more.
This led Strand to finding Pvt. Fuller, who was the 17th victim of the influenza pandemic. What frustrated her most about seeing members like Fuller unnamed was that they weren't listed as veterans.
"None of them were mentioned as fallen heroes or members of World War I. Just thought, for history's sake, these people might want to find their family members, these people might want to know if their ancestors were involved in the war. Since there were no military records available, how would they be able to find that out?" she said.
Strand had to get everything verified, but when she did she was able to get each of these men a Veteran Medallion placed on their tombstone. Fuller's is attached to his tombstone at Riverside Cemetery in Fargo.
"I'm proud of all of our veterans. They all deserve our appreciation and respect. They all deserve to be remembered," Strand said.
Cass County Veteran Service Officer Dan Thorstad attended the memorial and said being a part of this service and Strand's work does a lot to honor every fallen service member.
"As a veteran myself, we always want to see all of our service members and veterans recognized for their service, regardless of if you were in combat, or in private Fuller's case, died of the flu while training in going to combat," Thorstad said. "He still was inducted, he gave his life in service of his country and it's important that we recognize these things."
While those who died out of combat may not be viewed as heroic by some, Thorstad said he and Strand won't let their legacy fade.
"It's a significant part of history, but unfortunately as Ms. Strand found out, history's fading away. These young men that were inducted and had to die just tragically a few weeks before the end of the war, they should be remembered. That's what makes it important for us. He's a Cass County veteran and let's make sure he's recognized," Thorstad said.
Three of the 27 veterans Strand researched are buried out of state in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana, while the rest are throughout the state of North Dakota. Information regarding memorial services and Strand's research can be found at both her website and the North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs website.