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In the past 153 years, 88 members of Douglas Presbyterian have worn a military uniform.
That makes the church cemetery hallowed ground for those who proudly served during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and in Korea and Vietnam.
Now their final resting place is getting a monument so they won’t be forgotten.
The church will dedicate the marker at 3 p.m. Sunday during a memorial service.
Strut Murdoch, president of the church commission which oversees the cemetery, said the monument holds much more significance than just being a granite marker.
Murdoch said it is a record of the Douglas’ church family’s dedication to God, their community and nation.
“We decided early on if they wore a uniform, they were qualified to have their name put on the monument,” Murdoch said. “You were away from your family for a cause you were committed to and made sacrifices whether you saw action or not.”
The idea to erect the monument came from an American Revolution marker that Murdoch, and his wife, Joan, saw at Fishing Creek Presbyterian Church in Chester County.
But just limiting a monument to the soldiers of one conflict didn’t seem right.
Murdoch said it took more than 18 months of research to determine which church members joined the armed services.
Murdoch said the cemetery commission was aware of about 40 veterans, but after research, the number more than doubled to 88.
“Our premise was to take as much time as we needed to get it right. We were more interested in accuracy than doing something in a hurry,” Murdoch said.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave anyone out,” said George Waldrop, secretary-treasurer of the Douglas Presbyterian Church Cemetery Commission. “Strut is a real student of history and thoroughly researched everything.”
Waldrop said three Douglas church members paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Andrew McIlwain Perry was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga on Sept. 18-20, 1863.
More than 34,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed during the three-day engagement along a small creek in northwest Georgia.
“Records show at the time of Perry’s death, his family was among the most dedicated and active at Douglas,” Murdoch said.
Two members of the Douglas Presbyterian Church family – Thomas C. Williams and William P. Williams – were killed in action during World War II.
Murdoch said one is buried near Luxembourg, Germany. The other one may have been buried at sea in the Pacific.
Murdoch said another Douglas Presbyterian Church member – the late Henry M. Gooch – holds the distinction of military service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“I could be wrong, but I don’t think there were very many of those,” Murdoch said. “Regardless of the circumstances, it’s important to give them the recognition they deserve. They are our heroes.”
Waldrop said that’s the purpose of the veterans monument.
“How you care for a cemetery says a lot about who you are as a people,” Waldrop said.
“Our veterans may be fading away, but we’ve not forgotten about the price they paid and we never will.”