A Way To Say
BY KEN LITTLE
So that others will remember, small crosses with the names of Greene Countians who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country were reverently placed Saturday on the lawn of the Greene County Courthouse.
Members of American Legion Post 64 and Andrew Johnson Post 1990, Veterans of Foreign Wars, along with other volunteers, placed the white crosses bearing the names of Greene County's war dead in the ground in preparation for the annual Veterans Day observance at 11 a.m. today on the steps of the Greene County Courthouse.
The annual Veterans Day service is coordinated by VFW Post No. 1990 and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary.
The observance is designed to express thanks to all living men and women who have served in any branch of the military, during times of either war or peace, organizers said.
'TO HONOR ALL VETERANS'
Grady Barefield, American Legion Post 64 commander, emphasized in an interview Saturday that "This [service] is to honor all of our veterans who have served with our armed forces."
Barefield, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said the Veterans Day service with the placement of the small white crosses on the courthouse lawn serves a dual purpose.
"Veterans Day is to remember the living veterans.
"These crosses are to remember the veterans in Greene County who have lost their lives," Barefield said.
"There are about 152 crosses here, and they are all Greene County veterans."
The crosses bear the names of service members who died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, The Iraq/Desert Storm War and the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The numbers give pause for thought about the sacrifices of Greene County veterans. They are more than just names on a list, said retired Army 1st Sgt. Gary Beason, commander of VFW Post 1990 and a Desert Storm veteran.
In World War I, 48 members of the military from Greene County died.
The total from World War II is 158.
Fourteen Greene County natives died in the Korean War.
The figure for the Vietnam War is 22.
There were two deaths in Desert Storm, and one in Afghanistan.
"It's very important to recognize the people who fought and died for our country," Beason said.
"It's so important I don't think you can put that in words."
SERVICE IS TODAY
The historic date of Veterans Day -- originally known as Armistice Day -- is Nov. 11, and the service always begins at 11 a.m.
That precise time is used because Armistice Day/Veterans Day commemorates the armistice that ended World War I. The armistice began at precisely 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Beason explained that, because Nov. 11 fell on Sunday this year, the Veterans Day service was moved to today to allow veterans who would be attending church on Sunday morning the opportunity to participate in the ceremony.
Organizers said Saturday they hope that younger generations, in particular, will turn out for the ceremony to learn first-hand about the sacrifices of their forefathers.
SOME RANKS THINNING
The ranks of veterans of conflicts such as World War II and the Korean War grow thinner every day.
Veterans Administration statistics show that U.S. World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 680 a day. There are only about 1.5 million veterans remaining of the 16 million who served the nation in World War II, according to the VA.
The last living U.S. World War I veteran died in 2011 at the age of 110.
"Within 15 minutes the other week I got two different calls that World War II vets had passed away," Beason said.
Barefield said the American Legion color guard from Post 64 is busy these days. Color guard members are all volunteers.
"As long as we have a veteran pass away in Greene County, we do a funeral service," he said.
Numbers are also dwindling among veterans of the Korean War, sometimes referred to as "The Forgotten War."
About 7.52 million U.S. military personnel served during the Korean War era, from 1950-1953. There are about 2.5 million living veterans of that conflict, according to the VA.
One of those vets, Jim Britton, was at the courthouse Saturday.
Britton, an Army veteran, appreciates the recognition for all service members on Veterans Day, particularly those from his era.
"There's not too many Korea veterans left," he said. "They didn't [give much recognition to Korean War veterans] for a long time, but they do now."
PRAISE FOR THE ROTC
Beason said the efforts of local ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) units go a long way toward honoring veterans.
"I think our ROTC programs are really doing a good job passing on the patriotism that once was (prevalent)," Beason said. "I would love to see a big turnout of younger folks."
"It's most important we continue to recognize our veterans and get young people to participate and help them realize their freedom wasn't given to them without a sacrifice," he said.