Monday, May 29, 2017

At Grant City, World War I Heroes Remembered 100 Years Later

Grant City American Legion Commander Dr. Matt Martz recalled the heroism of John Hunter Wickersham, who gave his life during World War I during the Memorial Day Ceremony in the Worth County Courtyard Monday. Wickersham was wounded during the St. Mihiel Offensive during World War I in France on September 12th, 1918. He was severely wounded in four places by a high-explosive shell. Before receiving any aid for himself, he dressed the wounds of his orderly, and then continued to direct the advance of his men. He fired his revolver with his left hand until he finally fell and died for his wounds. In memory of his sacrifice, he received a Medal of Honor.

The day before his death, he wrote the following poem to his mother:
The mist hangs low and quiet on a ragged line of hills,
  There's a whispering of wind across the flat,
You'd be feeling kind of lonesome if it wasn't for one thing—
  The patter of the raindrops on your old tin hat.

An' you can't help a-figuring—sitting there alone—
  About this war and hero stuff and that,
And you wonder if they haven't sort of got things twisted up,
  While the rain keeps up its patter on your old tin hat.

When you step off with the outfit to do your little bit
  You're simply doing what you're s'posed to do—
And you don't take time to figure what you gain or lose—
  It's the spirit of the game that brings you through.

But back at home she's waiting, writing cheerful little notes,
  And every night she offers up a prayer
And just keeps on a-hoping that her soldier boy is safe—
  The Mother of the boy who's over there.

And, fellows, she's the hero of this great, big ugly war,
  And her prayer is on the wind across the flat,
And don't you reckon maybe it's her tears, and not the rain,
  That's keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?

Another soldier who gave his life was recognized by Dr. Martz. Mark DeAlencar was shot and killed by small arms fire while fighting in eastern Afghanistan last month. He left behind a wife and five children. Dr. Martz noted that DeAlencar, told to lose weight to reenlist, did so.

“Our enemies want us dead,” said Dr. Martz. “Our armed forces are doing all they can to protect us. The children of fallen warriors will grieve long after the guns fall silent.”

Dr. Martz noted that some gave their lives in humanitarian causes. In 1975, as South Vietnam was falling, President Ford authorized Operation Babylift, an operation to evacuate orphans from that country and place them in foster homes in the US. Over 2,500 children were relocated during the course of that operation. During that operation, a C-5A Galaxy plane had the locks of its rear loading ramp fail. Frantic efforts by the crew of the plane were not successful and 138 people were killed, including 78 children and 35 Defense Attache Office Saigon personnel. 173 people survived, and all of the surviving orphans were flown to the US. The pilots, Captain Dennis “Bud” Traynor and copilot Captain Tilford Harp, both survived and were awarded the Air Force Cross for extraordinary valor after their actions were credited with the survival of the 173.

Lloyd Ridge gave the prayer and benediction. Joe Marshall led a salute to the deceased veterans. The Worth County Mixed Choir sang the National Anthem and “In Flanders Fields.” Ralph Kobbe played “Taps.”

Afterwards, a singing contest was held at the Senior Center. Dora Martz was first, followed by Unique Brown and Rachael Brown. John Kollitz also performed a couple of numbers before heading to a couple of concerts in Iowa. Dora Martz and Unique Brown sang “Jesus Loves Me” together, while Dora sang some songs as well.

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