When we think about memorials for veterans, some will ask, “Why?” Why not just put up a plaque or get a town council proclamation?
There is a large brass plaque for World War II veterans in Chapel Hill, but it has been shuffled from its original site, long torn down, to a temporary storage site where it was forgotten, and finally to the old Chapel Hill Library building with the Chapel Hill Historical Society. Many do not even know that it exists.
Long time resident Robert Patton, and member of this committee, has spoken of this tragedy often. WCHL 1360 radio reported,
“Patton says the only memorial the town has is a plaque that the late-Roland Giduz discovered at the old Chapel Hill High School. The local American Legion and the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars had the plaque refurbished which is now on display at the town’s preservation society. It lists the names of residents who fought in the Second World War.” Ron Stutts
A permanent memorial, built and funded by the people of Chapel Hill, located in a prominent site for all to see, will be there for generations. It will be there long after the original veterans who seek it are gone.
We need a veterans memorial that is prominent, fitting, and worthy of the veterans who served their country. They were called by their country to serve and they went to “hell and back.” Many returned and question why they lived while those around them died. They ponder this question over and over, year after year, until they, too, are finally gone. They ask,
- Why was their foxhole safe, but a buddy in the next foxhole did not answer when they called out his name after an attack?
- Why did their shot up aircraft limp back to a carrier or forward base, while their wing men crashed and burned?
- Why was their ship afloat, as they watched the sinking of other ships like the carrier Lexington or Hornet?
- Why did machine gun fire clear everyone around them, but they survived?
- How did they reach the relative safety of a ridge only to look back at a beach littered with bodies?
- There are thousands of questions to which there are no answers.
These, too, should be the questions visitors to the Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill ask themselves as they reflect on the memorial and remember the places their dad, sister, uncle, mother or brother served. It should be a healing place, a place to reflect and to appreciate not only their sacrifices, but the miracle of Freedom in America for over 200 years.
Yes, we are fortunate that many thousands of veterans returned home to North Carolina and took up residence in our town and local area. Many restarted their interrupted education and went to the University of North Carolina, Duke, State and other schools and colleges. Many stayed on and helped build Chapel Hill as we know it today. A local World War II veteran, Edward Saleeby, said it best when he remarked, “UNC taught my son everything, but it did not teach him how to return home. He stayed here. that was 40 years ago.” Many veterans were like his son. They found a new home in our town.
Our town is full of veterans who served their country with distinction. This memorial will honor them, too. Our memorial is envisioned as a testimonial to those who have served and are serving today. It will show our appreciation for their service.
Other veterans came to Chapel Hill in later years to be with their children, who were in their own right formidable contributors to our town and university. Some, like the daughter of Dr. Samuel Klauber, are saving lives today because their dad made it home and proudly wore the name, American Veteran.
Here are just a few of their stories:
- Dr. Samuel Klauber.Maj, USA, MC, Utah Beach
- Charles B. Hodson, USMC, Iwo Jima, Guam, Local Attorney
- Lt Wilson V. Eagleson, USAAF, Distingushed Flying Cross, Tuskegee Airman
- Dr. John Brister Turner, USAAF, Tuskegee Airman
- BGen Madison Pearson, USA, World War I and II, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Purple Heart
- Harold Q. Lengenderfer,USA, Professor Emeritus, UNC Kenan-Flagler School of Business