Saying 'Thank you' to a local hero
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
NEW BETHLEHEM - New Bethlehem's bridge got a new name this weekend, and the Redbank Valley got a better understanding of the man whose name will be forever associated with the local span over Red Bank Creek.
Sgt. Joseph M. Garrison of the U.S. Marine Corps, a 27-year-old Distant native who was killed June 6, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan, was remembered Saturday morning as several hundred people turned out for the renaming of the local bridge and dedication of the monument in the parklet next to the bridge.
Over the past 11 months since his death, local residents have heard stories of how Garrison died when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in his vicinity. But on Saturday, they learned about the work Garrison did in Afghanistan prior to his death - work that will live on for years to come.
Memorial Day: 'Who will speak for them?'
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
BROOKVILLE — The 142nd observance of Memorial Day in Brookville served a dual purpose. The Monday service also marked the 150th commemoration of the start of the American Civil War.
Jeffersonian Democrat editor Randon Bartley, a volunteer with the National Park Service at several Civil War Battlefield Parks, asked the capacity audience to speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves.
“We see the monuments to the great leaders of the conflict but there are few monuments to those “little people” who volunteered, fought, bled and died. No one wrote their history; no one took their photograph or published their words into volumes of literature,” he said. “ If they were fortunate, their monument is a white government grave marker bearing their name. Many lay under stones marked unknown. Who speaks for them?”
Bartley spoke of local Civil War soldiers John C. Dowling, Amor A. McKnight, Major John McMurray, Captain Sam Craig, Captain Evans R. Brady and J. Potter Miller.
“These are only a very few examples. If you want to gage the extent of our little county’s involvement in the war just look at any cemetery and you will find graves with a bronzed star holding a United States Flag. That star denotes a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first veterans organization in our nation’s history.
For many, many years, this Memorial Day observance took place in the Brookville Cemetery beneath the towering statue erected to commemorate the service of those buried beneath it. At the top of that monument is not a general but a common soldier. That is only fitting because it was the American citizen soldier who welded the divided nation with his blood,” he said.
“People ask me what the Civil War was about. Each of you can answer that question. You answered it at the beginning of this program when you pledged your allegiance to the Flag of one indivisible nation, established under God, with liberty and justice for all,” he said.
“Today, our nation is rife with dissension; with claims of states rights, inequality and injustice,” said Bartley. “ In 1865 that pledge was fulfilled by the supreme sacrifice of 660,000 Americans.
“Who speaks for them now?” asked Bartley.
“In the coming years as we commemorate the Civil War we will hear a great deal about the people and the events of that time. We will hear of the heroes but you do not need to look far to find those heroes,” he said. “They are still here among you.
“Who will speak for them?” asked Bartley. “ It is my hope it will be you and I.”
The ceremony was held in the large courtroom of the Jefferson County Courthouse at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 30.
Jefferson County American Legion Council Commander James A. McCurdy was the Master of Ceremonies for the event.
The Brookville Area High School Band, under the direction of Tim Stevenson played several patriotic selections including the National Anthem.
Pastor Timothy Spence provided the Invocation followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by local Boy Scout Troop 64 and Girl Scout Troop 224.
American Post 102 Commander David Deemer paid tribute to the last American veteran of the First World War, Frank Buckles.
Commander William Littlefield, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 204 read the order issued by the Grand Army of the Republic establishing the last day of May to be a Dedication Day.
Joyce Neill, VFW Post 1242 Auxiliary read the roll call of the deceased.
Members of the VFW Post 204 and American Legion Post 102 placed memorial wreaths.
James Porter, VFW Post 204 will provide the Benediction.
Members of the American Legion Post 102, V.F.W. Post 204 and Company C, 2nd United States Sharp Shooters fired a salute to the dead.
McCurdy closed the services with his remarks.
A Matter of Honor
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Last week I had the honor to attend the funeral of Sgt. Joseph Michael Garrison in Distant. The 27-year-old Marine was killed June 6 in Helmend, Afghanistan and returned to his home in Distant for burial.
I attended as a member of the Jefferson County V.F.W./American Legion Honor Guard. My membership in The American Legion allowed me the opportunity to join the Honor Guard although prior to last Thursday my work schedule had precluded my attending many of the Honor Guard's functions. The funeral of Sgt. Garrison was both an honor and an obligation.
I felt honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with other men who had also served this nation. Some of them had served during a time of war and others, like myself, during the long cold war period. I stood in a line of something like 40 other V.F.W. and Legion members along the driveway of the Oakland Church of God. I looked up and down the line at the graying hair and deeply wrinkled faces and realized the fraternity I had joined. Each man standing in that line stood at attention as the hearse bearing Sgt. Garrison's body left the church. I, like the others, saluted as the entire funeral procession left the church for the cemetery. Many of the men in that line had served in Korea and perhaps even World War II. These were not young men but men whose only desire on that day was to honor the young man who had died so far from home. It was no easy task for many of them to hold that formation for almost three hours in the intermittent rain. They chose to stand outside so that other mourners could be seated inside the sanctuary of the church. None of them would have had it any other way. It was a matter of honor.
It was also an obligation none of them took lightly. The obligation was not only to the fallen Marine but to the family of Sgt. Garrison. Leading the funeral procession were members of the Patriot Guard Motorcycle Riders. Dressed in their leathers, many of them could have been mistaken for members of motorcycle gangs but each man and woman was dedicated to making this funeral service a dignified event. The organization evolved after a Church group in Kansas began picketing military funerals, making them into political events. That would not have happened in Distant. The riders were determined the family would have some privacy from the members of the press who crowded the driveway. When the Marine Corps honor Guard emerged from the church, the riders produced American Flags and made a circle around the rear of the hearse to be certain no one photographed the casket.
As I looked into the cars in the funeral procession I happened upon a car full of young Marines. Each one was fighting to keep his emotions in check. I thought these men may have been the comrades of Sgt. Garrison, men who had seen three of their comrades taken from them in one terrible moment. They were present to honor their comrade for the sacrifice he had made. I am certain as they drove through New Bethlehem, Clarion and into Distant, that the signs and ribbons along the road assured them their friend would always be honored.
That obligation is incumbent upon us all. We are under an obligation to continue to honor the fallen men and women and never to allow their memory to be degraded. It is an obligation and it is our honor to do so.
God bless Sgt. Joe Garrison.
Vets hope to bring Moving Wall to Brookville
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
By Herb McConnell
BROOKVILLE - John DeLaney, a Marine Corps. veteran who received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during the Vietnam War, says that when people ask him about Vietnam, he simply says, "I'm there all the time, I'm there now."
DeLaney recalls the friends he lost on the day he was wounded and it is that dedication that led him to start an effort to bring the Moving Wall to Brookville.
The Moving Wall is the half-size replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial that has been touring the country for more than 20 years. It went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas in October, 1984. Two structures of The Moving Wall now travel the United States from April through November, spending about a week at each site.
The "Moving Wall" passed through Brookville August 24, 2011 on its way to Tionesta where its appearance was sponsored by The Rumble on the River Motorcycle Rally and Music Festival. The Veterans Organizations and the people of Brookville lined the streets welcoming and honoring the men and women listed on the "Moving Wall" for their ultimate sacrifice.
A meeting was held recently, led by John DeLaney, Service Officer for American Legion Post 102, Brookville and Dave Deemer, Commander of The American Legion Post 102, Brookville, to consider bringing The Moving Wall to the Jefferson County Fair Grounds August 21-25, 2013.
It was decided at the preliminary meeting to have The American Legion Post 102 sponsor the event in cooperation with Jefferson County officials, veterans organizations, Lions Club members, Pinecreek Volunteer Fire Company Chief, District 27 American Legion representative, American Legion Riders and interested Jefferson County residents.
DeLaney and Deemer stated that the estimated cost of the event based on information they received from the organizers of the Tionesta event would be $12,000 for the use of the Moving Wall.
The remainder of the meeting was used to discuss the establishment of a checking account to deposit donations, and the establishment of committees.
The next meeting to be held at the Heritage House in Brookville at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7.
Chose your 'heroes' with care
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
In recent years it has become fashionable to call veterans, all veterans, heroes. I don't know where this began but it has become an over-used cliché like "I am sorry for you loss."
I am a proud member of The American Legion and I don't know many Legionaries who would ever call themselves "heroes." Those who do are usually running for office.
I have known men and women who I consider to be heroes and even these people declined the title "hero." Usually they will recall someone who died for their country and will say the real heroes are the ones who never returned.
A recent flap over a monument honoring veterans in a central Pennsylvania cemetery brought this to mind. The good people of the church raised $5,000 to honor vets from Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II and the Global War on Terror. They were justifiably proud of their accomplishment. But one Vietnam vet was not happy with the result. He found errors and worse, he found Vietnam vets listed with Vietnam-era vets. There is a difference: A Vietnam vet is someone who served in that theater of war while a Vietnam-era vet, served elsewhere.
My older brother was drafted and spent two years in Germany. He is a vet but not the same as my friend Herb McConnell who did his time in Vietnam. There are many similar examples. I do not diminish one man's service when balanced against another. Both of these examples gave what their nation demanded of them.
The Vietnam vet upset with the cemetery monument did not want combat vets listed with National Guard or Reserve members. He, in effect, said the Guardsmen and Reservists of that era had joined to avoid service in Vietnam. That was true for many but not all. Many of the men I served with in the Army Reserve had already done their time in Vietnam. Some had actually done their active duty time in Korea.
There was not one man in that unit who would not have gone when called just as the modern day members of the Guard and Reserve went when they were called to the Persian Gulf or Afghanistan.
Just as that Vietnam-era veteran erred when he degraded those Reservists and Guardsmen of his day so do we err today when calling all vets "hometown heroes" or some other "sorry for your loss" style phrase. It is easy to say but far more difficult to make it more than an empty phrase.
Ask any vet and they can tell you of someone they think of as a hero. Here is mine: Audie Murphy.
Last Spring I visited Arlington National Cemetery with my grandson. My intention was to show him what this nation meant to the people who lie in those tranquil acres. I purposely sought out Audie Murphy's grave. It isn't grand at all. For the man who was the most decorated American soldier in World War II, it is a simple soldier's stone, similar to those found in local cemeteries. It is so small it cannot list all of his decorations. Some of those listed include the Medal of Honor, DSC, SS & OLC, LM, BSM & OLC, PH and two OLCs.* Not bad for a skinny kid from Texas who was rejected by the Marines for being too small!
Murphy spent 21 months in action in the European Theater. By the time the war ended he received the Medal of Honor along with 32 additional U.S. and Foreign awards including five awards from France and one from Belgium.
He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on January 26, 1945 in the battle at Holtzwihr, France. Murphy's unit was reduced to an effective strength of 19 out of 128. Murphy sent all of the remaining men to the rear while he shot at the Germans until he ran out of ammunition. He then climbed aboard an abandoned, burning M10 tank destroyer and used its .50 caliber machine gun to repulse German infantry. He was able to call in artillery fire using a land-line telephone and was wounded in the leg. He continued his single-handed battle for almost an hour. He only stopped fighting when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by enemy artillery.
When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied simply, "They were killing my friends."
THAT is a hero. If you notice the top of Audie Murphy's tombstone, you will notice coins; Coins from the United States, France and Belgium that were left by people who wished to honor Murphy in their own way. Heroes, it has been said, never die.
I have known many other veterans I would put in the same category but, like Murphy, you would never hear that from them.
I hold in reverence anyone who has given his or her life for our nation and I honor all of those who are veterans. I take my cue from the hundreds of vets I have known from World War I to the War on Terror and allow them to define the nature of a hero.
And that is my view from Arlington, Bart
* DSC -Distinguished Service Cross; SS - Silver Star ; OLC - Oak Leaf Cluster; LM - Legion of Merit; BSM - Bronze Star Medal; PH - Purple Heart