Central WV Aging Services announced that Ray Clifford Strader will serve as the Parade Marshal for the annual Veteran’s Day Parade on Monday, November 11, at 11 a.m. in Gassaway. The reason I mention this is because Clifford was in my high school class and we graduated in 1951. He had 12 siblings, which I didn’t remember! He joined the Army in 1953 and was sent to Fort Hood, Texas for Basic Training. But after only five days in boot camp, he was sent to the Motor Pool to teach the men how to drive anything from a Jeep up to a 70 mm tank. He had to teach them because there were only three of them that could drive. Then when they hit the firing range, it was chaos. No one knew how to do anything. After they fired the first round, the division Commander asked Clifford where he learned to shoot. He said he learned from shooting squirrels. So, teaching marksmanship was his job for the next two years. He is now a member of the American Legion and continues to serve in different capacities. He has been the Commander of the American Legion for 12 years, now assisting the Color Guard with funerals for Veterans. I am so proud of him. We all should be! (I got information about Clifford Strader from November 5 edition of the Braxton Citizens’ News.)
On Veteran’s Day “Eve”, I was thinking about my own experiences with service-related activities. I remember the excitement and concern in my parents and grandparents’ voices on December 7, 1941 when I was six years old. We had no TV and got pictures from the newsreels they ran before movies at the theater on the rare occasions when we went to a movie. My most horrible memories are of the radio news broadcasts about the war, (World War II, later Korea and Vietnam.) I was so frightened that I had nightmares of enemy soldiers coming down over the hills into Burnsville. (That is laughable now, but not to me then. We were a tiny town with very little industry or anything else, really, and no reason for invasions by enemies, but it was real to me.) Bless their hearts, though, my parents knew that I had to be sent elsewhere when the news was on because I was so scared.
Like so many people of those days, everyone listened to the news regularly. I remember my dad or my grandfathers, if I was visiting one of them, sitting very close to their radios and listening to every word. My grandfather McNemar had sons and nephews in the service and he would try to figure out where they were – where in Europe or where in the South Pacific, by the censored airmail letters he would get from them.
But I also remember that when the flag went by in parades, in the movie news shorts, or in town, I was thrilled. At a very young age, I remember that when I got to see parades or activities where men wore their uniforms and carried flags and guns I was thrilled and had goose bumps. I still am thrilled to tears at times when the National Anthem is sung, or other songs, like “You’re a grand old flag. You’re a high-flying flag, and forever in peace may you wave. You’re the emblem of the Land we love, the home of the free and the brave.” Or Kate Smith singing “God Bless America!” I don’t think the millennials or whatever the younger Americans are called anymore will ever have the deep, wonderful feeling of adoration (or what word can I use? It is almost like falling in love and I have done that a few times in my life, too!).
My earliest memories are of the Red Cross ladies folding bandages in a room at a building on Bridge Street (I think it is). I think they all had on aprons with red crosses on them. I was very impressed by their dedication. I wished I were old enough to help them. I remember also having air raids when blinds must be on the windows or we had to crawl under the desks at school.
But, you know, these days it is not so upsetting to see and hear about war. Our lives are filled with pictures of tragedies of all kinds, and even the entertainment that many choose are full of horrible, painful, ugly happenings. We can only find peace in believing that God is planning a better future for those who come to know that He never meant for this earth to be filled with violence. (Genesis 6:5) That is why He destroyed it with a flood and will finally destroy it with fire that will purify it, and He will create it into the beautiful Eden He wanted for us in the first place. If we believe He loved us so much, He sent His own Son to pay the penalty for our sins so we, when we believe and accept His sacrifice, the wiping out all our sins, can be part of the wonderful future. Oh, if only we would each one believe and accept Christ’s sacrifice as payment for our sins and find peace in believing in His love and the wonderful future He has planned for us.