|Raymond Byrd is pictured in the third row, next to last on the right. The photo is of Company G, 152nd Infantry, New Castle National Guard.
By DARREL RADFORD
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the so-called war to end all wars – World War I – officially came to an end.
If only that had been so. History tells us there have been many more battles, acts of valor and sacrifice since that day. Obviously, they continue every hour of every day. And just as they have always been, people from Henry County continue to serve, often without fanfare but always with great dedication.
As we prepare to observe another Veterans Day this weekend, the Henry County Historical Society has opened a special display honoring the courage and selfless acts of people down through the decades who grew up here, gave up some of best years of their lives to military service – and in too many cases – left it all behind to defend our freedom.
From the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and both World Wars to Vietnam, Korea, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, Henry County men and women have always answered the call. The museum display, designed by volunteer Mary Miller, pays tribute to that sacrifice.
Putting sacrifice into perspective
Many of them loved to stand on a green hill, in a place like Memorial Park, look over the landscape below, breathe in the fresh air and literally taste the freedom – just like us.
Many of them loved to hear the laughter of children as they played in a safe place, unafraid of what enemy could be lurking over that hill.
Many of them loved to look at a starry night sky and dream of the possibilities their future held, a night sky not blurred by the rocket’s red glare – just like us.
And so many of them gave up all the blessings we cherish – trading the green hill for a bunker, the laughter of children for the thunder of gunfire, the starry night sky for the shadows of death.
Through photos, letters, military uniforms and unique artifacts, local veterans are remembered – from those who served and died in places like Korea and Vietnam to the Goodwin brothers who were, at one time, all three in the military during Middle East crises.
They include men who missed the birth of their children because they were fighting wars thousands of miles from home. They also feature women like Elizabeth J. Howren, a New Castle Chrysler Corp. nurse who volunteered to serve as a flight nurse and later died in a plane crash over Sicily. A certificate honoring her sacrifice signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt is part of the museum display.
There’s also the Red Cross uniform of Juanita Jane Rucker, a beloved New Castle teacher whose greatest lesson may have been the value of service. She received a certificate of Meritorious Service for her World War II efforts.
Rucker was following the footsteps of another great New Castle servant, Elizabeth Melville, who did similar Red Cross duty during World War I. Her uniform and photo are also on display.
These were men and women who gave up some of the best years of their lives to ensure that when a plane passes overhead, our children and grandchildren look up at the sky in amazement and wonder, not fear. The people who are the reason our star-spangled banner still waves at a thousand corners like our own Ind. 3 and Ind. 38.
How many bedtime stories and birthday parties did they miss? How many Sunday picnics and baseball games and county fairs went on without them?
How many precious moments with loved ones were traded for the duty that makes them all possible for us today?
And how many have returned – and are still returning – to us in name only, on a casualty list like the ones adorning courthouse walls around the state? To read just a few of their stories, please turn to page B3.
The Henry County Historical Society has opened a special display honoring veterans. Here are some of their stories.
Remembering the fallen
Letters written by New Castle’s Raymond Byrd just weeks before he died during World War II serve as a poignant reminder of the many sacrifices military personnel give up to serve others.
They are often simple things.
Hunting and fishing.
Holding children on your lap.
Sitting next to the love of your life on the porch.
Just weeks before he died, Byrd wrote to this his wife: “About the last four nights I have been dreaming of you and the children. I sure hope those dreams come true. All I want to do is sit at home with you by my side and the children on my lap.”
That letter was postmarked Jan. 31, 1944. On Feb. 7, Byrd was wounded in western Germany while defending the Siegfried line. An enemy mortar shell burst near him. He died in Luxembourg two days later.
Interestingly, family members said Byrd was treated by a New Castle doctor, Dr. Ben Harrison, before he died.
Members of the Byrd family gathered at the museum in New Castle during September to remember Raymond.
Linda Byrd Bolander was just over a year old when her dad died.
“We should never forget,” she said. “My mom gave me his medal and military items before she died. It’s time. They should be here.”
WORLD WAR II: ALLEN SHIVELY
Shively won the Navy Cross for his heroic efforts in Guam during World War II. The medal and a display of letters and newspaper articles is part of the museum exhibit.
The letter explaining Shively’s medal said it was for “extraordinary heroism” and described a scene no Hollywood film could ever reproduce.
“During an all-night fight with the enemy, Sgt. Shively, after two of his men were killed, took over a machine gun for five hours. Despite his own wounds, he remained at the gun and repulsed many strong and determined attacks by the enemy. During the night, Shively was attacked by an enemy officer bearing a drawn saber. In a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, Shively, after sustaining a Saber cut, wrested the saber away from the officer and killed him with it.”
A member of the Mount Summit Christian Church, the late Shively was a quiet, humble man who rarely spoke of his war efforts. The twice-wounded veteran received not only the Navy Cross, but the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, the Purple Heart and the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Ribbon with three stars. The display was given to the Henry County Historical Society by his son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Connie (Rutherford) Alexander.
Glen Robert Cowan
“He died saving my life.”
Those were the simple but powerful words Sgt. Edsel Adams wrote to Mrs. T.C. Cowan of New Castle when informing her of the death. A 1942 New Castle graduate, the 20-year-old Cowan was killed Feb. 23, 1945, in Europe.
Private James C. Spitler
A former Hagerstown and New Castle resident, Spitler was honored posthumously for his involvement during the seizure and occupation of a Japanese-controlled in the Marshall Islands Nov. 24, 1943. He was wounded on Feb. 18, 1844, and died four days later.
James L. Baumgartner
This New Castle man received the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and European, African and Middle East Campaign ribbons during World War II.
He won the Bronze Star for his work with the engineers of the 90th Division in the drive across France into Germany. He also heroically put out a fire in a building locked with explosives and later stayed with an injured soldier during heavy shelling.
CIVIL WAR: IRA HOUGH
This Liberty Township native received the Medal of Honor from President Abraham Lincoln for capturing the Confederate flag during the battle of Cedar Creek, Va. After the war, Hough returned to Henry County and farmed just southeast of Middletown.
GEN. GROSE AND GEN. BUNDY
Of course, heroism abounds with the stories of Civil War Gen. William Grose and World War I General Omar Bundy. Medals, weapons and newspaper accounts of their service are always prominently displayed at the museum.
Grose was definitely not a give-orders-and let-others-do-the-fighting kind of general. He was actively involved in some very recognizable Civil War battles. Shiloh. Chickamauga. Chattanooga. Lookout Mountain. He was regarded as a hero during 100 days of continuous fighting in the last Atlanta campaign.
Courage glistens off of the military medals won by Gen. Omar Bundy, a New Castle native who is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He stood only five feet, five inches tall, but Gen. Omar Bundy was credited by some for turning the tide against the Germans in World War I.
Bundy became known as the hero of Belleau Wood after he and his troops stopped the German advance in its last great offensive of the war. Bundy defied orders to retreat, a bold move The Indianapolis Star later reported “in all probability saved Paris from capture at the hands of the Germans.”
Bundy’s official statement on the matter was: “None of our soldiers would understand not being asked to do whatever is necessary to re-establish a situation which is humiliating to us and unacceptable to our country’s honor. We are going to counter-attack.”
(Darrel Radford is executive director of The Henry County Historical Society and a writer for The Courier-Times. The veterans display will continue throughout the remainder of the year. Museum hours are from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Special viewing times may be arranged by calling 529-4028.)