Local Civitans remember those who served

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2003

On the national front, Veteran’s Day 2003 was observed with quiet ceremonies and spirited parades across the land.

Locally, the Exchange Club of Greenville planned a patriotic rally in Confederate Park for Tuesday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. And all around the Camellia City, Old Glory could be seen on display courtesy of the efforts of the local Civitan Club.

Expanding the recognition

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WW II veteran Gene Hardin says he is certainly glad to see there is some local observation of this special day. But he admits he also is saddened more attention is not paid to Veterans Day and the sacrifices of the men and women of the armed forces it honors.

&uot;I think there is a real need in our schools to teach our young people why these wars were fought in the first place – and to let them see the contributions made by American citizens, some of whom are their own parents and grandparents. We need to instill a sense of patriotism and honor in our youth in this country,&uot; said Hardin.

Hardin knows the price of freedom is a high one.

&uot;If you look at all these wars, police actions and conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the one we are in right now, a lot of fine people have served; they went and did their duty. And many didn’t come back.

&uot;You could say we have lost the cream of the crop of some generations, people who would have probably gone on to make great contributions to society if they had lived,&uot; he noted.

&uot;You have to make an effort to remember and to appreciate what these folks have done and continue to do for us on a daily basis,&uot; Hardin stressed.

Honoring the supreme sacrifice

Herbert Morton, commander, USN (ret.), agrees with Hardin: Veteran’s Day is much more than just another holiday.

&uot;It’s all about the sacrifices we have given in this country from 1775 right through today. I always like to say, ‘A lot of people gave up their tomorrows so we could have today.’ And that applies to the folks fighting and dying right now over in Iraq – this day certainly honors them, too,&uot; Morton said.

Remembering ‘the greatest generation’

Morton and Hardin teamed together through the Greenville Lions Club WW II Memorial Fund Project to spearhead a local effort to create a countywide memorial to veterans of WW II.

Even as the national memorial to veterans of &uot;the last good war&uot; is in the last stages of completion in Washington, D.C. (it is slated to open in April 2004), a local memorial is drawing closer to reality. After extensive publicity and fund-raising efforts, it appears the county memorial will be ready for dedication on Memorial Day 2004.

&uot;Right now the names of the 93 WW II dead from the county is being checked by Gene Raines, the gentleman who originally did the research…we have approved the design and the inscription and we should be ordering the monument in the next few weeks,&uot; explained Morton. He has been told the natural granite monument will take some 3-4 months to complete.

Morton and Hardin both stress this monument isn’t just meant to honor the war dead.

&uot;This is intended to honor every single man and woman, black and white, who either came from this county or who came and settled in this county as a veteran after the war,&uot; Hardin said.

&uot;A lot of fine people who served in the war greatly contributed, and continue to contribute, to the betterment of this community. We have lost an awful lot of them, but we want to thank as many as we can while they are still here,&uot; Hardin said.

While on the names of the war dead will actually be inscribed in the granite, plans are in place to honor all 2,000-odd local veterans of the war in a lasting way.

&uot;We will have a bronze plaque affixed to the monument indicating the [Greenville-Butler County Public Library] location of the roll of honor book including all veteran’s names. We also plan to have copies of a special booklet including the names to give out at the dedication service next May,&uot; explained Morton.

Education is key

Award-winning retired educator Bobbie Jean Cumbie, a history buff who grew up during the WW II era, knows the importance of teaching children their nation’s heritage. Cumbie frequently brought in veterans of wars to talk with her students and serve as examples of ‘living history’ for the youngsters.

&uot;When I taught Alabama history in the 4th grade, my children and I ‘fought’ every war together…if you don’t take the time to make history exciting for children and bring it to life for them, then you are doing them a grave disservice,&uot; Cumbie stressed.

&uot;There are many young people today who have no idea what sacrifices were made by our veterans. They have no realization of what a price was paid so we could have the freedoms we enjoy today,&uot; she said.

Cumbie firmly believes those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes made in the past.

&uot;History is so important…and sadly, it is so neglected in our schools today. If we can get our children’s attention and get them involved when they are young, they will grow up with much more appreciation and understanding of what our nation is all about,&uot; she noted.