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Charles Ussery is vice president of the Heath Springs Veterans Monument Committee
Veterans Remembered is written in support of the veterans monument being built for all veterans of Lancaster County in hopes that it will stimulate readers to remember those veterans who touched their lives and provide support to the Veterans Monument Project.
As a child, I lived in a very small world at a time when World War II was fresh in everyone’s mind. Patriotism was high and it was reflected at the theaters, in comic books, our churches, our schools and especially in our homes.
In my small world, a world that was ruled by people twice my size, my uncle Frank Blackmon, was a World War I veteran. I remember bits and pieces of his experience fighting in France and how he was wounded and the scar on the back of his head.
Another uncle was Roland Haile, who attained the rank of colonel in the Air Force. We looked at his pictures and heard our mother read his letters. After 27 years of service, he died of heart failure. He was the base commander at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas.
Across the creek, Ernest Croxton was a World War I veteran. He and his wife, Mary, lost a son, Aiken Croxton, during World War II to an illness. Here, on the farm in my small world, we were often reminded of the loss of Capt. William Ussery, an Army Air Corps B-17 pilot.
in my small world
Even though his family lived in Tiger, Ga., William spent several years on the Ussery farm before World War II. He would serve in the Pacific Theater and even though a B-17 pilot, he would lose his life on his last mission flying a British Lancaster bomber. His plane had been shot up two days earlier and he lost two of his crew. He had the option to wait two weeks for repair parts or join a make-up crew of British and Americans and pilot the British Lancaster bomber. Part of the tail section of the Lancaster was damaged and the plane was losing altitude. The crew did not bail out and all were killed in the crash.
Still in my small world about a mile up the road, Otis Cauthen had two sons, Lovic and Ralph, fighting in France. Lovic was killed and found by his brother, Ralph.
Friends form pact
to fight Germans, Japs
I want to jump forward in my remembrance to Nov. 11, 1984, coming home after a Veterans Day program at York Tech. My neighbor, Steve Threatt, and I worked at Tech and shared a ride. Steve was remembering his childhood friends who formed a pact and joined the service when they became of age. He told me nine of them signed a pact to fight the Germans and Japs and not come back until the job was done. I asked if anyone saved the pact with their signatures. He told me it was written on the upstairs wall of Mrs. Mary Phillips’ house.
It is important that I tell you a little about this house to keep you in my small world of veterans remembered. The house Steve mentioned was built by Dr. William Columbus Cauthen, who was the great uncle of Mary Rebecca Bell Phillips, who is now 96.
The following day I visited Mrs. Phillips and told her about the pact and writing on the wall. We both inspected the upstairs walls but failed to find anything.
In 1987, Mrs. Phillips broke her hip and moved to a nursing home. I was given the keys to the house and asked to care for it as best I could. I believe Mrs. Phillips died in early 1991 at age 101 and I continued to examine the walls for the pact.
We found the pact, finally
Feb. 27, 1992, was my daughter Rebecca’s 13th birthday. One of my gifts to her on this day was to take her to Mrs. Phillips’ house to pick flowers and give her a history lesson. Rebecca loved the flowers and tolerated the history lesson with questions.
We climbed the stairs and entered Dr. Cauthen’s bedroom where he died in 1865. We opened the secret passageway located behind the high-back bed and examined the attic. Not finding any silver or gold we closed the door and crossed the hall to the large bedroom and examined the pencil writings left by previous generations but we didn’t find the pact.
The house faces east and the early morning sun was bright through the windows. As we left the large bedroom facing the stairs a tall person needed to bend over for that first step. Above the stairs at eye level the bright sunlight revealed the writing of the veterans’ pact. The date was not legible but the pact read: “On this date we met here to pledge to join the service of our country and we pledge to fight the Germans and the Japs to the end. We will come back here when the war is over and meet again. William Ussery, Steve Threatt, Ned Threatt, Ralph Threatt, Aiken Croxton, Matheson Croxton, John M. Croxton, Lovic Cauthen and Ralph Cauthen.”
William Ussery, Aiken Croxton and Lovic Cauthen would lose their lives before the war’s end. In 1992, both Steve Threatt and Ralph Cauthen suffered from Alzheimers. I contacted Matheson Croxton and asked if he would tell me about the pact.
“That was a long time ago,” he said. “I entered the Navy and served as an electrician.”
This past year while getting names for the Veterans Monument, Ralph Cauthen’s son, Wayne, told me his father told him about the pact and about his Uncle Lovic Cauthen’s death in France.
I’m sure there are similar occurrences of young men banding together to enter the service of their country from all parts of Lancaster County.
As I cross the county seeking those who would sponsor a name for the Veterans Monument, I remind all who will listen that there is no veterans’ monument in Lancaster County from the Spanish American War to the present day. Repeatedly, people tell me that a monument should have been erected 40 or 50 years ago with a way to add additional names.
It is now 2011, and the time is now.
If you are a veteran, we want your name on the monument. If you are not a veteran you can help build the monument by sponsoring a veteran or purchasing a paver. Cost for a name on the monument is $250 and paver is $100.
If I can be of assistance, call me at (803) 273-5146.
Charles Ussery is vice president of the Heath Springs Veterans Monument Committee.