Uncle Magnus, looking spiffy in his WWI army uniform, never cracks a smile but just sits in a straight back chair, hands clasped in his lap. I study the young face that I have seen only in photographs, my mother’s family resemblance is apparent. He was her uncle, her mother’s brother and he died when I was just a baby. But I’ve heard the stories about his battles and how he fought bravely in France and how his feet nearly got frostbite and how he escaped being captured by just seconds.
My great-uncle fought in that war to end all wars. Well, that’s what they said anyway, that the war that blazed across Europe in 1918 was the last war to ever be fought. And it was… for awhile. Every year Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11. I remember climbing to the top of our windmill tower just before 11 o’clock on 11-11 and waiting for that magic hour when the treaty had been signed to end the war. At exactly 11 a.m. the oil mill whistle would blow in Chillicothe and the big bell on top of the old grade school building would begin to dong…dong…dong, alerting everyone that there would be no more wars.
WWI didn’t have a number after it until the Second World War began. Uncle Magnus’ boy put on a uniform and flew off to fight in that one. Will’s remains are still somewhere in France about where his daddy was captured 25 years before. Will never made it back to the farm he loved so much. Life went on for his wife and young son but of course everything changed for them forever.
Will’s son Fredrick shipped out to Korea right out of high school in 1950 and gave up an arm to a grenade blast that October when the allies captured Pyongyang in that “peace keeping” mission. That war ended early for him but once back home, he determined to earn a degree and make a successful life for himself and the childhood sweetheart he married. He retired from a successful career as an accountant just a year ago.
When the sparks from Viet Nam lit up the Western sky, James was drafted and off he went, wading mud through the jungle trails in search of an enemy he couldn’t often see. He wrote his dad about this war and asked him how it compared to the mud and the cold in Korea.
James had a rough time once back in the states and sometimes Fredrick had a battle of his own in dealing with his restless son. After awhile he settled down enough to get married and tackle a job making cars for General Motors. His oldest son joined the army at 21 and got to see action in Desert Storm and his younger son went off to Baghdad where his body, along with six other Marines, was blown apart by a suicide bomber. They volunteered for the Marines and left a land of freedom to help bring freedom to others.
When I look at Uncle Magnus’ picture, I think about his father Thomas J.M. Worrell and his grandfather William L. Worrell, both of whom answered their country’s call and left their red clay farms in Georgia to fight for the Confederacy. They suffered terrible hardships of hunger, cold and extreme fatigue because they believed in their cause.
Armistice Day has been changed to Veteran’s Day, a day to honor our veterans who are still alive so that we can show them the appreciation we feel so deeply for the sacrifices they have made. We may remember veterans from all the wars and honor them on Memorial Day but Veteran’s Day is to bring recognition to all of those who are still with us. No longer do we celebrate a victory on November 11 but rather we celebrate the men and women who laid their lives on the line every time.
Veteran’s Day was celebrated throughout the land last Wednesday. There was a large gathering at the Erath County Courthouse. There were veterans of several wars present who stood proudly and saluted the flag for which they were willing to give their lives. I hope that you were there to give each and every one of them a pat on the back, to shake their hand and say a simple and heartfelt thank you.
Americans suffered a terrible act of violence against those service people we hold so dear last week at our own Texas Fort Hood. Once more we were forced to recognize that all people, even those who claim to be Americans, are not loyal to our flag and to our people.
Please remember to be thankful for what we have and what we are and that our veterans have fought for our country and our servicemen and women are standing tall in this hour.
May God take care of them and us.