The whole reason I started this web site is to honor my great-uncle Billy, a young man I never knew and who died way before he had the chance to make a major impact on the world. As it is, in the short 24 years he was given, he managed to make impressions on people that persist today.
When Billy graduated from Transylvania University in 1940, he spent the better part of the next two years teaching, some at his former school in Mount Sterling. One of his students was Betty Tipton, now in her 80’s and going strong. Betty told me a story once about a spelling bee she participated in back in March of 1941. Betty had worked hard to learn her words, and Mr. Hedrick spent extra time after school working with her to help her get them right. The spelling bee took place, and Betty came in first. To this day, she still has the certificate signed by Billy, and considers it a treasure.
Betty’s family plot at Machpelah Cemetery in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, is near the Hedrick family plot. When I met her the first time, she told me that she visits her family plots often, and when she does she never fails to say “hello” and acknowledge the Hedrick family stone which bears a plaque honoring Billy and his service on the USS Strong DD 467. His remains are not there, but nevertheless, she feels honored to have known him and has never forgotten the person he was. Her niece, Mary Treadway, says this:
“Tammi a special memory of your Uncle Billy Hedrick or Mr. Hedrick on Veterans Day as my aunt Betty will always call him. We stopped by to say "hi" to him today while at his resting place.”
There’s not too much else you can do to compliment the memory of a special person, than to continue to acknowledge their life and their legacy over time. Sharing that story with me means something.
Woodrow Wilson sponsored the first Armistice Day honoring the sacrifices of men who served in WWI on November 11, 1919, saying:
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
May 13, 1938 the day became a legal holiday, dedicated to the cause of world peace. In 1945, a WW2 veteran named Raymond Weeks of Birmingham, Alabama suggested the day ought to honor all war veterans, and not just those from WWI. President Eisenhower supported this idea, and the very first holiday dedicated to all vets was in 1947. It took until May 26, 1954 before Congress finally made it law. By June 1st, they had decided to change it from Armistice Day officially to Veteran’s Day.
I know most of you don’t need to be reminded of what this day is about. You are veterans or the family of men and women who served in at least one, but sometimes more of the modern day wars and conflicts. But other family members and friends may need a little prodding to understand that the day is for more than pre-Christmas sales and sleeping late. They lack your unique perspective and experience on the reason for the day. They will never see or share your memories of the time you served. Others will never see what you saw, feel what you felt or live with the physical and emotional scars from your time at war. And I know you would never wish this on them, but remind them anyway. We take far too much for granted in this country. Our loved ones should not be reduced to a commodity of war, and forgotten over time.
So thank you Dad, Billy, Uncle John, Cousins Patrick and Mike, Uncle Gano, Aunt Stella and all of my relatives and ancestors who put their lives and hearts on the line. There are really no words worthy enough.
Thanks again to hubby Greg for his input on the content of this blog. See, I listen to you. :o)