GreenSville Country, Virginia
Henry Parham was working as a porter at a bus station in Richmond, Virginia, when the draft letter came in the mail. “They got me,” he said. His reluctance to serve wasn’t rooted in the difficulties of a Jim Crow army or a lack of patriotism. His reasons were more practical. The Great African-American Migration was underway when Parham left a sleepy corner rural of Virigina where many of his extended family and neighbors worked as sharecroppers. He was happy to land a steady job at the bus station, where he was earning a sum that provided, for the first time in his 21 years, a dose of security. When Uncle Sam came calling, Parham was wasn’t keen to leave behind the comfortable world that he had built. Yet he boarded a train bound for Tennessee, and trained to fly strange balloons for an indeterminate mission. That mission would take him across the sea to a five-mile-long patch of sand called Omaha Beach. There, Parham would be tested as never before.