Heroism is a matter of witnesses: Oak Mountain grad shares a soldier’s story


Brannon Sirmon

OMHS graduate Brannon Sirmon has republished his great-grandfather’s WWI journal, That’s War. Photo by Kathryn Acree.

While searching his parents’ house for something to read over Christmas in 2009, Brannon Sirmon came across his great-grandfather’s World War I journal. He didn’t e realize at the moment, but the journal would shape his passion for history and re-telling his relative’s story.

Sirmon delved into the pages of That’s War, realizing his great-grandfather’s accounts were worth being re-published. This summer he self-published the book through Xlibris; his great-grandfather is listed as the author and he as the “re-producer.” The original journal had a small publishing run by Lemon Publishers in Atlanta, but their publishing rights from 1929 extended only 75 years.

The 2005 Oak Mountain High School graduate and Indian Springs resident is now actively out sharing William Arthur Sirmon’s war accounts.

The elder Sirmon was born in 1894 and lived until 1971. He entered the Army as a young southern soldier in 1911 and served in the Philippines before going to England.  After the U.S. entered World War I, Sirmon kept meticulous accounts of his war experience in France with the 82nd Division in a journal he later entitled That’s War. The diary covered events from January 1, 1918 until Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

William Arthur Sirmon quietly served with distinction, most notably receiving the Legion of Honor of France, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre with Palm alongside famed hero Sergeant Alvin York in 1919. Additionally, separate from York he was awarded England’s highest honor, The Victoria Cross.

Brannon Sirmon said involvement with the diary has transformed him.

“I was in my fourth year studying at Alabama but not really knowing what direction I wanted to go in,” Sirmon said. “Coming across this account has given me something to be passionate about.”

Ideally, Sirmon hopes to transform his great-grandfather’s war diary into a screenplay following in the paths of other first-person war accounts such as Band of Brothers and The Pacific. He recently travelled to Los Angeles to promote the book to movie producers.

“There is definitely movie interest out there, but my job now is to get readers familiar with his story,” Sirmon said.

Part of the influence the book has had upon Sirmon is a renewed fascination with history. “My great-grandfather’s account has humor in it at the beginning but then moves into a daily account of his unit with humble, patriotic tones,” Sirmon said. “One of my favorite quotes of his is, ‘Heroism is a matter of witnesses.’”

That’s War is available for purchase through Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and Sirmon’s website, www.thatswar.com. Sirmon has stayed busy in recent months promoting the book on local television programs, appearing at events like Tannehill Trade Days and talking with groups such as local American Legion chapters.

He will be a featured speaker November 6 in Columbiana at a veteran’s ceremony sponsored by the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce on the courthouse lawn. If your group or civic organization would be interested in meeting Sirmon, contact him by email at Brannon@thatswar.com or 901-0959.


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