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Memories of wars surface at ceremony

November 12, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A close scrutiny of war and reflections on tough moments in past conflicts surfaced Tuesday morning during a Veterans Day ceremony at Shepherd College.

To show how sobering war can be, keynote speaker Robert Scharmer used the words of Ernie Pyle, a well-known war correspondent during World War II.

Scharmer read an account Pyle wrote about a young officer named Henry T. Waskow, a well-liked officer who was killed on the front line in Italy during the war.

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In his story on Jan. 10, 1944, Pyle wrote that "dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed to the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden packsaddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked."

One of the bodies was that of Waskow.

Soldiers came to see Waskow, some cursing, some weeping. One of the soldiers held Waskow's hand, looked into the dead soldier's face and said nothing, Scharmer quoted Pyle as writing.

"And finally, he put the hand down and then he reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain's shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound," Scharmer quoted Pyle as writing.

Scharmer, talking to a crowd of about 100 in the midway on the college's east campus, said the experiences of people like Waskow and Pyle are the reasons Veterans Day ceremonies are important.

"We have to continue to retell these stories," Scharmer, an adjunct professor at Shepherd and retired U.S. Air Force captain, said after the ceremony.

Words of wisdom were offered by the Rev. James S. Chambers Sr., while a C-130 from the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, W.Va., flew twice over the midway, drawing applause from the crowd.

Master Sgt. Ron Glazer, an honor guard bugler from the 167th, offered his rendition of "Taps" from the roof of the Sara Cree gym.

Some people in the audience wiped away tears during the ceremony.

Ardyce Ketterling of Chambersburg, Pa., said she came to the ceremony because she had friends who served in the military. Ketterling worries about her 18-year-old son and whether he may be called to duty.

"I have really mixed feelings. It's just so hard to justify the loss of life," Ketterling said.

Ketterling's husband, Glen Davis, said his best friend was killed in the Vietnam War.

Davis said he searches for "legitimacy in a war, if there is such a thing. We needed to be in World War II ... but do we need to be in some of these other conflicts?"

"I've got to think there's got to be a better way to solve our conflicts," Ketterling added.

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