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Franklin County Courthouse bell marks anniversary of Armistice

November 12, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Halfway through Capt. Craig Hoffman's Veterans Day speech, he paused as the clock tower of the Franklin County Courthouse pealed 11 times, marking the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 signaled the end of that war, but predictions that it would be the "war to end all wars," Hoffman said, "proved to be wildly optimistic." What was known as Armistice Day for years later became the day this country honors all of its veterans, he said.

Franklin County's last two World War I veterans died in 2000, but veterans from every war since then were on hand Tuesday morning for the service and parade, including 92-year-old Charles C. "Babe" Harrison, who was riding on a float with other veterans.

"He went straight from the hospital to the float," said his son, Jeffrey, minutes before his father passed by. "He was very involved with the American Legion for many years. At one time, he was the state vice commander."

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Babe Harrison spent the war in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a code instructor for radio operators of B-25 Mitchell bombers, Jeffrey Harrison said. When the war ended, Harrison was in San Diego, preparing for the invasion of Japan.

"His granddaughter was in Desert Storm" serving as the fire control officer on a Patriot missile battery, Jeffrey Harrison said.

Sitting along the parade route was a man wearing a baseball cap with the name of a ship, the USS Orca.

"It was a seaplane tender," Bob Davis said. He joined the Navy in 1942, but the major action he saw was in peacetime.

"We were at the bomb test in Bikini," said Davis, recalling the 1946 atom bomb tests on the Pacific atoll. When the first bomb was dropped, the Orca was circling 15 miles away. Crew members were instructed to face away and keep their eyes covered during the blast, but he still could see the flash.

Later, the Orca went into the harbor, still hot with radioactivity. The hull later was sandblasted in dry dock to decontaminate the vessel.

"I woke up one morning and I couldn't walk," Davis said. The Navy at first said he had arthritis, but it later was diagnosed as softening of bone tissue, possibly a side effect of radiation.

"I don't mind," he said. "I'm still drawing a pension for arthritis."

Most families do not have to look hard to find someone who has served or is serving in the military,

Robert Foreman served in the Army in World War II, but was more interested in seeing his great-granddaughter, Kaitlyn Hawbaker, in the parade with her Daisy troop.

Foreman said his father served during World War I and his three brothers also were in the service. Two nephews served in Vietnam and a grandson was a Marine in the Persian Gulf War.

Hoffman, a naval aviator who served in Vietnam and logged 5,000 flight hours and thousands of carrier landings during his career, said veterans' service to the community often does not end when they leave the military.

"They remain dedicated, above all else, to serving their fellow man," he said.

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