Ww Ii Vets Remember Their Fallen Comrades

December 11, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Fifty years later, some World War II veterans still suffer from their wounds. Remembering doesn't hurt at all, though.

Members of the Purple Heart, which include 54 county veterans wounded in action, gathered Saturday evening to march once more and to remember comrades who lost their lives 50 years ago at Pearl Harbor.

"It is absolutely important to remember," said Russell Shaffer, 73, state chaplain and commander of the county's Purple Heart Unit. "Alot of heartaches and bloodstains came from the war."

Shaffer, a Westminster resident, was wounded in the Philippines during an invasion by the Japanese army. He took his place next to Bob Nicholls, 73, of Eldersburg. The men marched across the Longwell Parking Lot, behind a line of flag-bearers.

"Nobody can imagine how many lives were disrupted," said Nicholls, who was wounded during the Battle of Brestin France. "I was already overseas when the Japanese invaded. One year away from home turned into 4 1/2."

About 80 veterans joined area residents of all ages in the ceremony. Holding candles in the cool night air, participants listened to a prayer delivered by the Rev. Shelton Smith of the Church of the Open Door.

"Let us remember thosewho fought and survived and those who gave their lives in battles from Valley Forge to Vietnam," he said. "Freedom always has a price."

Singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the participants marchedsolemnly uphill to the flags in the city garden. Tears rolled down many faces as memories of loved ones flooded their thoughts.

Katherine Townshend and Eva Owings, members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the 29th Division, came out of respect for their late husbands, who both returned home safely after fighting at Normandy.

"Pearl Harbor is still very real to us," Townshend said. "It's part of our heritage."

Westminster resident Bearkla Englar, also of the auxiliary, spoke softly of her husband and brother, as marchers sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

"I came for them," she said. "My husband came home, but my brother was lost in the South Pacific."

Mabel Reifsnyder's brother was stationed on the USS Dale on Dec. 7, 1941. It was months before the family learned he had survived, she said. She still calls him every year on the anniversary.

"The Lord blessed our family," the Westminster resident said. "He's still shining his blessings (on us).This has been a perfect night."

This year, her brother's neighbors in Hayti, Mo., collected $6,000 so he could attend the memorial services in Hawaii.

"I didn't think he would ever want to go back," she said. "After 50 years, they gave him a medal."

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown called the turnout "heart-moving," and said the event led himto harken back to past wars, including the Persian Gulf War.

"When the chips are down, this nation is always strong," he said. "We pulled together, sacrificed, cheered, and in the end, we were victorious."

Rick Will, a Vietnam veteran, and the mayor organized the PearlHarbor commemoration here three years ago to keep residents mindful of the event, which propelled the United States into World War II. Will thanked all the marchers "on behalf of my fallen comrades."

He asked participants to encourage schools to teach the history of all the country's wars, saying, "Children must learn and remember."

Another memorial ceremony Sunday, at American Legion Post No. 191 in Mount Airy, drew more than 300 people, Post Cmdr. Art Brett said. At theceremony, Pearl Harbor survivors Dr. William J. Coburn and Charles R. Etzler raised a U.S. flag that once flew over the Arizona memorial.

U.S. Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, presented a commemorative medal to Etzler. Coburn already had received a similar medal atthe U.S. Naval Academy.

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