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Art Callaham: Why a monument and not a memorial?

June 30, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

I sat down two weeks ago to write a column about the noble and heartfelt efforts of a group of Korean War veterans who overcame the apathy in many Americans to design, fund and build a monument to commemorate the sacrifices of Washington County residents who gave their “last full measure of devotion” in defense of freedom during the Korean War.

I had thoughts that this column would appear in the Sunday edition of The Herald-Mail on the same day as the dedication of that monument. Then I had a second thought. Why remember on just one day? The Korean War is often referred to as the “forgotten war” and if we’re going to remember that war, is one day really enough?

So, here’s another remembrance. There are 32 names at the monument below the statement “Freedom Is Not Free.” These are the men from Washington County “who sacrificed their lives during the Korean War.” In your mind, think of the company roll call, and as you read each name, think of the squad leaders answering “absent sir” after each name: David Angle, Charles Barton, Richard Beard, Kenneth Beckley, Herene Blevins, Lonie Blevins, James Cave, Roy Delauter, Arnold Dye, Dailey Dye, Charles Flora, Jesse Lake, Walter Mason, Owenne Messersmith, Wallace Minnich, Jeremiah Mongan, Vernon Mulligan, Junior Repp, Kenneth Ridge, Milford Rowland, George Sanderbeck, Harold Sharer, Harry Smith, James Smith, Kenneth Smith, Robert Smith, Charles Snyder, Clyde Starkey, Charles Stotler, Walter Vaughn, Leonard Wade and Jack Zirkle.

Yes, each one is absent from the earthly roll call, yet present for duty in the hall of heroes and forever present on that stone slab as a reminder that whenever free Americans will die for the freedom of others, America will remain the bastion of freedom in the world.

In U.S. Army tradition, from my era, each round of toasting at formal affairs began with the first toast “to absent comrades.” So, join me this morning, with your coffee, juice, water or whatever, in a toast to these American heroes: “They have gone before us to make this world a better place for freedom loving people; to absent comrades!”

The event on June 23 was a “monument” dedication, not a “memorial” dedication. Memorials, you see, are usually dedicated to the dead, or the past, while monuments commemorate the living, the present and, most importantly, the future. The term monument, used by Antietam Chapter 312 of the Korean War Veterans Association, was by design. The members want this monument to be a living symbol to the ideals of freedom and not just a reminder of the past.

Speakers at the dedication included Navy Cmdr. John O’Brien, a senior staff officer at the Department of Defense, along with Lt. Col. Kang Moon Ho, the assistant defense attaché at the Korean Embassy, and Del. John Donoghue.

All of the speakers at the dedication remarked about the future and how young people should remember the sacrifices made in the past and build on that foundation to ensure that future Americans will value freedom in the same manner as our ancestors. Freedom really isn’t free. 

No column about this project would be complete without noting the efforts of Jim Mobley, Peter Callas, Jim Ensminger, Bud Johns, John Koontz, Joseph Startari, Wayne Winebrenner and Les Bishop, the members of the monument committee.  These men, along with the members of Antietam Chapter 312, turned effort into reality.

Along with those efforts, many contractors, grantors, benefactors, patrons, donors and generous individuals donated time, treasures and talents to make this project a success.

Thanks to Donoghue and Hagerstown City Councilman Don Munson for their tireless efforts to secure significant state funding for the project. Also, hats off to the Washington County Board of Commissioners for their contribution to the project (all five commissioners, including my wife, Ruth Anne, attended the dedication ceremony). Also, thanks to the county’s public safety folks who helped make the day uneventful.

Although lightly attended by city elected officials, thanks to the City of Hagerstown staff for working out the details, including police efforts at the ceremony, to ensure the monument is secure and maintained for many years to come.

Finally, thanks to any who served. God bless you, and may God continue to bless America and our allies in Korea.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.





 

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