Hanging Out the Warsh 6-4-13

Several weeks ago the Journal ran a photo/story about a dilapidated crate which Louie Fritz of Verdon had found when he was dismantling an old shed. It had been sent by J. L. Lord, USS Henderson, Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, CA. to Vera Lord, Box 343, Falls City, Nebraska. Louie wondered how it wound up in the old shed.

Ruth Rannebeck did some checking and it revealed the crate and its contents had been sent by Josh Lord, who did his growing up in Falls City, when he was in the Navy and aboard the USS Henderson in l950-5l. The ship was damaged in a typhoon in the China Sea and had to put in to Japanese shipyard for repairs. Could be, some of the crate’s contents were obtained there. Now 86, he lives in Lakeport, CA.  Josh said he had sent a lot of souvenirs to his mother, Vera, and sister, DeLoris. He said his mother had friends by the name of Helmick living in the Verdon area, so maybe that’s how the crate wound up in Louie Fritz’s old shed.  
Mystery solved—pretty much so, anyway.

I was privileged to attend a great Patriotic Service Sunday, May l9, at the Martin Luther Lutheran Church, rural Johnson, with Naola Fritz and her son, Ethan, who attends Texas A&M at College Station. Mrs. Fritz and her late husband, Lyle, a Marine Corps veteran, had attended the pre-Memorial Day event several times.

Patriotic songs were sung by the Martin Luther Choir and the speakers were Bill and Yvonne Williams of Omaha. The Williamses have been the instigators of the  free Honor Flights from Omaha to Washington, D.C., for World War II veterans to visit the fantastic World War II Memorial. Elmer Chapp of Falls City and the late Leon Harbour of Stella were among those making the memorable Honor Flights. National Guard Major General (Ret.) Charles Jim Barr conducted an impressive flag-folding ceremony and spoke briefly.

Following the service everyone (and the church was packed) was invited to a delicious buffet meal prepared by the church women.

Church member Ron Meyer planned and emceed the program which has been held annually since 2005. I repeat: it was outstanding.

On the printed program at the Patriotic Service was one version of the origin of “Taps,” which is played by a bugler at military funerals.  I have read other versions but the following version seems to dominate:

“Reportedly, it all began in l862 during the Civil War when Union Army Capt. Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other of the narrow strip of land. During the night  Capt. Ellicombe heard moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention.

“Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him towards his encampment. When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath, and went numb with shock. In the dim light he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son.

“Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army. The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted. The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. Their request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. But out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform. His wish was granted.

“The haunting melody we now know as “Taps” used at military funerals was born.”

I want to believe this emotional version but still one has to wonder if it really happened that way. Strange things do occur in wars–and this may be one of them. Any way you look at it, it’s one heck of a story.

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