Originally published on Nov. 5, 2003.
The list of living veterans grows shorter each year as the group of veterans grow older and come to the end of their lives.
We owe such a debt of gratitude to those who gave up months and years of their lives, and sometimes even their lives, to see that we could continue to enjoy our way of life today.
Next Tuesday, November 11, is now called “Veterans Day”, but in my lifetime long ago it was called “Armistice Day” because on that day in 1918 a cease fire went into effect.
Today it honors not just the veterans from World War I but all the wars that we have fought.
In the lower back section of the old part of the Minden Cemetery is the location of the mass grave of Confederate soldiers, who died of injuries received in the Battle of Mansfield.
There is an obelisk near the road placed there by the Daughters of the Confederacy to honor the dead soldiers.
A Mother’s Pain
When I stood in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D, C. at the tomb of the unknown soldier, I felt the sadness that only a mother can know.
Each of these dead men was some mother’s son, and even though it might be just one, the grief was the same in each family.
And when I stood at the cemetery in Chalmette and regarded the row upon row of crosses that mark the graves there, I think of the waste of life in that battle – the Battle of New Orleans – since it was fought after the war was over but there was no way they could know since communication was difficult back in 1815. (The war was officially over in December, 1814, with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium but no one knew about it because the only way to send a message was by ship.)
Many of Minden’s Veterans have received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Some never received any of these but were brave and faithful to the branch of service in which they served.
There have been so many wars since Veterans day (Armistice Day) was established. We had the Korean War, the Vietnam war, the Persian Gulf War, called the Desert Storm, and this latest one dubbed “Enduring Freedom,” and other skirmishes down through the years.
Each time men gave up their way of life, left their homes, and served our country. Each man’s service was a sacrifice and we should be grateful for their willingness to serve. Some gave their all.
Minden lost its share of young men in all of these wars. What a waste!!
In the Gardens of Memory there are many graves of servicemen. When the little flags are placed on their graves it gives me a sense of awe when I realize how many are buried there.
My own husband is one who served four years and four months in the U. S. Army during World War II.
He was in the invasion of North Africa, Sicily and Italy, as the one in charge of an anti-aircraft gun with about 10 or more men serving under him.
In spite of all the major battles, none of the men were killed or even wounded. That was a miracle.
Often I open the closet door and look at his uniform hanging there, or look at the flag that was presented to me at the time of his funeral.
There is a poem written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, the Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee.
His father was an American, but his mother was originally a British citizen. He had earned a scholarship to Yale University in 1939, but in 1940 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was graduated as a pilot.
He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941. In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed ‘HIGH FLIGHT’ and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later on December 11, 1941, his Spitfire collided with another plane over England, and Magee who was only 19 years of age, crashed to his death.
He is buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire. Part of this poem was used by President Reagan at the occasion of the crash of the space shuttle Challenger.
He quoted “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and touched the face of God.”
What war means to me is sadness, death and grief. Let us honor those who have served our country, and remember proudly those who served and have gone on before us.
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.