We can learn a lot from a graveyard. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the need for people to find ‘common ground,’ to focus on what unites us, not what divides us. Well, I can’t imagine a better example of ‘common ground’ than a cemetery.
In this issue of the PRT, in honor of Memorial Day, you will see a list of veterans buried in our local cemeteries. It is a place where politics, prejudices and petty bickering have been put aside. Uncle Jack’s rants no longer send your Aunt Loretta over the edge and everyone just lies there quietly side by side.
But that doesn’t mean that there are no stories left to tell there, and no one’s stories are more important than those our veterans have to tell us, reminding us of their sacrifices and the price they and their families have paid to preserve our freedom.
My Uncle Staff was a doctor in World War II, part of the Allied Forces that entered Sarajevo after the Germans retreated. The day after he wrote home to his parents describing the horrors he saw in Sarajevo and the gratitude of the citizens of that city towards their liberators, he drove out to administer typhus shots to people living in the countryside. I don’t know if he ever got to deliver the vaccines. A land mine planted by the retreating Germans blew up his jeep and took him from his wife and children, his parents, his siblings.
As I tried to fill in some of the blanks in the veterans’ list on page 4 of this issue, I came across Sgt. Henry H. Wood, a veteran buried in Black Oak Cemetery. Henry, who was 22 years old, was a gunner in the 411th Bomb Squadron. His military record states “Service terminated by death 8.26.43.” His death certificate listed his cause of death as an airplane crash that occurred at Gowen Field Base in Boise, ID. He was survived by his wife, Maxine.
Cindy Morriss, who has helped to identify veterans for this list, sent me the obituary for Pvt. Lona L. Young, buried in the Patagonia Cemetery. Lona, who was 22 years old, had enlisted in the Womens Army Core (WAC), just seven months before her death and was driving jeeps at Camp Hood, TX. She was killed in an automobile accident there. Lona had two brothers in the service at the time of her death. One brother was serving in the South Pacific and the other was in the Air Corps.
Cindy also told me about Pvt. Virginia M. Horrocks, who served as a WAC. Virginia lost her husband, Chief James W. Horrocks, who went down with the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. James was one of four sailors from Arizona lost that day.
It strikes me, looking at this list of 137 names, that this lightly populated area has had a disproportionate number of people who have answered the call of duty. This Memorial Day, take a moment to honor their memory, remember your family members that have served, and pay homage to them by trying to find some common ground that we can all build on to preserve our freedom.
Perhaps, as Murphy Musick has suggested, we could all come together at the Patagonia Cemetery twice a year – Memorial Day and Veterans Day – for services and praise of our fallen heroes, creating a new tradition to honor our veterans and other ancestors.