Monday, May 29, 2017

From Thousands to Two Dozen: Isadora Memorial Day Ceremony Dwindles

The Memorial Day Ceremony at Isadora used to be one of the biggest draws of the county. As late as the 1930’s and 1940’s, there would be a sea of people filling up the entire Isadora Cemetery decorating the graves. There were even more people across the road in a picnic area. The young people would march into the cemetery from the picnic area and decorate the cemetery with flags.

The town itself still had a huge blacksmith shop during the 1930’s and ‘40’s, first run by Jack Wake and then by his son, Gary Wake. Now, it is a small village with a small building for the West Fork Boosters 4-H Club, the Isadora Church of Christ, and a few homes nestled in the timber. Blaine said that sometimes, while doing funerals at the cemetery, he could hear the turkeys in the surrounding timber calling.

Now, the ceremony draws two dozen people to come and remember the soldiers who gave their lives for their country. There were a few songs sang, the Pledge of Allegiance was sung, and the tributes to the Armed Forces were sang.

Jeff Blaine, Pastor of the Sheridan Christian Church, spoke. He spoke of Heinrich Severloh, otherwise known as The Beast of Omaha. He was a German soldier. The Germans doubted his loyalty; in 1942, he was punished for allegedly making dissenting remarks and forced to perform extreme physical exertions which left him with permanent health problems.

But when he was transferred to Normandy, Severloh nearly single-handedly kept the allied forces at bay during D-Day. The allies came with 2 million soldiers, 448,000 tons of ammo, and 13,000 aircraft flown in support. During the initial assault on D-Day, in the biggest amphibious operation ever, 160,000 men were ferried across the English Channel to Normandy. Around 14,674 air sorties were flown in support of the D-Day invasion.

Severloh defended a position named “Easy Red,” and began opening fire at around 5 am local time. He fired for nine hours, using up 12,000 rounds and was credited with inflicting anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 of the 3,800 to 4,200 American casualties singlehandedly before he ran out of ammunition nine hours later, retreating, and later surrendering to the Allies. Afterwards, in The Scotsman, he recounted in 2004 waking up that morning to a wall of ships that looked like it was stretching all the way back to England.

Afterwards, Severloh became a Prisoner of War, being held first in the US and later in England before being released in 1947. In his own words, he said, “There was no glory that day. Just good men dying.”

In the 1960’s, Severloh formed an unlikely friendship with David Silva, a chaplain who was wounded by three bullets in the chest at Omaha Beach. They met in the 1960’s and later in 2005 at a reunion of Allied forces in Normandy. Spiegel TV, a German network, did a documentary in 2004 in co-production with the Canadian Broadcasting Company about the unlikely friendship.

“I believe Severloh should have surrendered,” said Blaine. He said that we will all meet our maker, and that it was wise to surrender to Christ now. He said the Allied soldiers in Normandy came for one purpose – to preserve freedom. In the same way, Blaine said that Jesus was the way to eternal peace. “There will only be two people at the end – those who surrender, and those who have not.” Reading from Revelation 19:11, Blaine talked about Jesus as the insurmountable force who will bring judgement at the end along with the Word of God.

Debbie Thummel played “Taps” to close off the ceremony.

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