Guest Column: Veterans are all around us

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Despite what the Good Book says about “wars and rumors of wars until the end of time,” I thought surely World War  II would have brought a desire for lasting peace to the world. I now realize youthful ignorance to the evils of mankind was responsible for such thinking. Like millions of others across the United States, I grew up in a time when the veterans of World War II had come home. The parades and celebrations were over, and those who had returned were ready to resume a normal life. The nation had sacrificed greatly for the war effort. Unfortunately, it would take decades to pay the proper tribute to those who had, in fact, “saved the world from domination by evil incarnate.”
Jim Moore was a returning veteran who lived directly across the highway from us. The small frame house where he stayed with his elderly parents still stands. It has been converted to a real estate office. His brother Rone’s store has become a tavern and restaurant. Each time as I pass by, I can see Jim walking in his stooped manner between his brother’s store and his home about 50 yards away. He had the stature and walk of a man much older than his actual age.
Jim was wounded in World War II. I saw the scars on his legs and stomach. He was very lucky to be alive. Often he would visit and talk to my mother as she sat in the yard shelling beans or preparing some other vegetables gathered from the garden. The conversations were therapeutic for Jim. I was usually too busy playing to pay much attention to the exchange of their words. Now, I sorely regret not having been more attentive.
I do remember, even though I was a child at the time, a feeling of emptiness in Jim when he would reach out and grab me and tickle me on some of my visits to his brother’s store. It was a common practice at the time. Now, I think I have reason to understand exactly what he might have experienced to feel that way.
Jim was also one of the regulars at a place called Slagle’s Happy Acres. More than once, Rone informed local people that Jim had been killed in one of the infamous monthly get-togethers hosted by Harry Slagle at his Happy Acres off Doby’s Bridge Road, but it never happened. Jim died of natural causes at age 62.
Heath Potts had his own store 3 miles up the road at the corner of Highway 521 and Highway 160. There is a humongous service station on that property now. Heath exhibited a boyish shyness around people. He, his brother Robert, and Harry Slagle all survived the Bataan Death March. Perhaps his demeanor around people was a reflection of much more than shyness.
Three veterans I never knew were also killed in World War II. Charles Pettus has a road named after him. Henry Harris and Shelley Mullis Roads are named after the other two from our immediate area who died in that war.
I heard Robert Daniel Wilson talk quite often about driving a tank in the Battle of the Bulge. He still wore his tanker’s jacket to Veterans Day celebrations at the high school.
Herman Ashley earned a silver star. He, too, was a regular at Slagle’s Happy Acres. Someone said a funeral director didn’t want to have an honor detail at Herman’s funeral because “he had drank too much.” I have a comment, but it should not be printed!
Fleet Cox drove a landing craft that took Marines ashore on islands in the Pacific. I can only imagine what he stored away in his memory.
Charles Blackwelder was a Marine in the Pacific. He kept a detailed diary of the months he and his comrades were in close contact with the Japanese.
I have not named all the veterans of World War II from our area. We were typical of what had been taking place all across our county, state and nation.
Time has taken its toll on those who served in World War II. The Good Book’s words are truth. The generations of my youth and generations after have become the new veterans. Unfortunately, those words will also be true for generations yet to come. Happy Veterans Day to all.

Indian Land resident Don McCorkle is a writer and serves on the Lancaster County School Board.