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This is a column about stories. Our newspaper is filled each week with stories about local happenings in government, school administration, courts and law enforcement, civic activities and the numerous happenings that influence our lives on an ongoing basis in Carroll County.
On Nov. 11, 2009—Veterans Day—The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner will publish special editions honoring the men and women from our area who have served in the armed forces. We are encouraging local veterans and/or their families to send us letters telling of their military service so we can share those stories for posterity. The stories don’t have to be lengthy, only factual. While these stories may not seem like news to some, they are important documentations of local history that demand to be remembered by the community. I’ll share a few stories of my own which may jog your memory for a recollection to be shared from your experience.
Uncle Denny, my father’s youngest sibling, served with the U.S. Navy Seabees during the second World War. When his unit was shipped to a small island in the Pacific Ocean their transport ship was engulfed by a typhoon, and they almost didn’t make their destination. Not long before his death, he told me that his unit maintained the airstrip from which U.S. Marine Col. Greg “Pappy” Boyington and his “Black Sheep Squadron” of Corsair fighter planes terrorized Japanese Zero pilots.
Uncle Denny was proud of that association with the famed squadron, helping me to realize that behind every renowned fighting unit there are numerous others behind the scenes helping to keep their equipment in optimum working order and maintaining the facilities from which they operate.
My mother’s younger brother, Sgt. Gailord Eades, served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe. He was with the force that liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany in April 1945. During the extremely rare occasions when he talks about the experience, he gets extremely emotional (and so do we) when he describes the conditions brought on by man’s inhamanity to man.
My great-uncle, the late Oakey Thompson from Carroll County, trained young men to pilot those rickety biplanes that fought for the sky over Europe during the first World War. Uncle Oakey departed this life when I was still a teenager, so I never got to hear any of his stories of military service. Although he served stateside throughout the United States’ brief involvement in that war, Thompson served an important role in helping to develop the machines and fighting men who pioneered our nation’s combat capability in the air. Perhaps some of Uncle Oakey’s descendants are still around who can share some of the stories he handed down.
One of the most gripping war experiences I ever heard told firsthand was an incident that occurred during World War I, involving a U.S. Navy troop transport and a German submarine. C.A. Hollowell was superintendent of schools in Trimble County when I entered the seventh grade in 1964. At a Veteran’s Day school assembly in the old McCain Auditorium of the now-razed Trimble County High School building, Mr. Hollowell kept the student body spellbound with a first-person account of his ship being torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in 1918.
Two dozen years later I was a newspaper reporter and sat down to interview Mr. Hollowell to capture his story for my readers of that day. Still very active and alert at 90 years of age, the old veteran spilled the story of how he was shoveling coal into the ship’s boilers when three torpedoes—or “fish” as the sailors called them—slammed into the troop transport ship U.S.S. President Lincoln as she returned home with a small compliment of wounded soldiers. The ship went down inside of 35 minutes. Of more than 700 souls on board, 26 perished in the cold Atlantic waters about 600 miles off the coast of France.
I will share Mr. Hollwell’s story with you in the Nov. 11, publication. Fortunately, I wrote his story before his passing or it might have been lost to time.
This month we mark 40 years since the local National Guard unit returned home after a year of service in Vietnam. I will share the story of that unit as well. But it is impossible for me to interview every individual who served with that group of men. If they could write to us here at the newspaper and share their memories of that experience, we will publish as many as we receive.
Almost every week we see in the obituary columns that more veterans are joining the rolls of their comrades who sleep in the cities of the dead. This is especially true of the men and women who served during World War II. How many of their stories are passing with them, untold?
Many military experiences do not happen in wartime, but the service of those men and women is very important to the protection and survival of our country. Few of the stories involve heroics. But the ordinary stories told by ordinary men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way to do the extraordinary service of preserving our freedoms and the American way of life deserve to be told and heard again and again.
This great nation was founded on the tremendous resolve of our forefathers, their great faith and their life’s blood, sweat and tears. The hope for our future lies in our continued faith in God and the common men and women from our farms, towns and cities who serve to protect the rights of free men and women of democracy everywhere. I proudly include my own son—now serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Pensecola, Fla. —among that number.
Perhaps you have a story to share of your military experience, or that of a loved one. Write your stories and send them to us at: The News-Democrat, P.O. Box 60, Carrollton, KY 41008, or email them to me at email@example.com. Get them to us by Thursday, Nov. 5, and we’ll include them in our special Veterans Day publication.