Hello from Andersonville National Historic Site.  It has been a full year since Charlie Sellars left and I am both honored and so very pleased to be here as the new superintendent.  Despite the pandemic, we are working hard to preserve and share the significant historic resources and stories held at the park, maintain the grounds, and of course to continue operating the national cemetery and honoring our veterans.  I am so grateful for the support of the Friends of Andersonville in helping us achieve our mission for the American people.

The staff at Andersonville NHS are some of the most dedicated and skilled of any park in the National Park System.  The concern they feel for park resources and each other is evident in the teamwork they display every day.   We had some damage from Hurricane Sally in September which included a flooded basement and a large tree that just missed falling on the historic park entrance wall and trees on Pecan Lane. Swift and coordinated action by the staff prevented damage in both cases.  I am very proud to have joined this team who puts our veterans and their families first in their thoughts and actions.

The support provided by the Friends of Andersonville allows us to provide services and resource preservation that would not otherwise be possible.  While 2020 has been a year of challenges, the staff have adapted well and accomplished quite a bit with the support of the FOA.  Most annual events were cancelled or converted to online programs. Events scheduled to recognize the 50th anniversary of the park were largely cancelled. Instead, a series of short videos were posted on the park’s Facebook page, and a series of images through the years will be posted on the park’s Twitter page, to recognize the 50th anniversary of the park. A youth art contest that was scheduled for Spring 2020 was postponed until Fall 2020/Spring 2021.

Memorial Day was recognized primarily online, with a series of video and written information presented throughout the day in partnership with other national park sites. A large wreath was placed at the rostrum in Andersonville National Cemetery. A local bugler came and played Taps and other music, and a local bagpiper also came and played patriotic songs in the cemetery to pay tribute to those who died serving their country. In September, an online program focused on World War II POWs and the Sack of Cement Cross that is on display in the National Prisoner of War Museum was held to commemorate both the park’s 50th anniversary and National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

An American Conservation Experience intern was hired to transcribe oral histories given by former Vietnam POWs and to help the Museum Curator catalog objects. Three POW Research Grants were awarded but two have been delayed due to covid19 impacts on travel.

Most of the funds not used during the year due to the pandemic will be redirected toward creating a virtual, educational resource for teachers on the Georgia Public Broadcasting educational resources web page (https://www.gpb.org/education/georgia-studies/virtual-field-trips). This virtual field trip will provide students with an interactive tour of the National Prisoner of War Museum and an overview of the American POW experience.

We continue to work with Friends of Andersonville, Bennett Trucking, the Taylor Family Foundation, Wreaths Across America, and individuals to honor veterans and their families by placing wreaths on as many headstones in Andersonville National Cemetery as possible this coming December.  We appreciate both the support and the leadership provided by the FOA in working towards this goal.

I want to express my sincere gratitude and admiration to Jim Covington for his 10 years serving as the Chairperson of the FOA.  I was fortunate to spend a few hours talking with him during my first week at the park and I learned so much from him.  Bill Arcuri took several hours out of his day to speak with me as well and that is also much appreciated.  The staff and I look forward to working with Bill and the rest of the FOA over the coming year to finalize some type of agreement and move forward with many worthy partnership projects that will benefit students, veterans, and our visitors during 2021.

Gia Wagner
Andersonville National Historic Site