Gris: Now they will never be forgotten

April 5, 2012 

Telegraph columnist Ed Grisamore is out of the office. We are running a few of his favorite columns from the past. This column was originally published on Nov. 11, 2001.

ABBEVILLE --

A sense of duty sent some to war. Some simply waited for Uncle Sam to wave his finger and order them halfway around the world.

They came from small towns like Rochelle and Pineview. And from bumps in the road along rural mail routes, like Sibbie and Double Run.

When their country needed soldiers, it pulled them from the cotton fields and canteloupe patches of Wilcox County. It recruited them from the backwaters of Folsom Creek and Oscewichee Spring, and issued them uniforms almost as soon as they turned their tassels at high school graduation.

Some came home heroes. Some returned crippled and scarred, changed forever by their experiences.

Others came home in pine boxes. Their final resting places were the cemeteries at churches where they were baptized as young boys and took brides as young men.

Friday morning, they were honored here on the small lawn of the courthouse, at the intersection of the only traffic light in the county seat of Abbeville.

Large granite monuments, imported from Elberton, displayed names of the 64 native sons who died during the nation’s seven previous armed conflicts.

All were somebody’s son. Somebody’s brother. Somebody’s father.

At their feet, granite bricks carried names like “Tot” and “Cap” and “Skeet.” They served their country honorably, then were blessed to breathe the pine-scented air of home again.

Now, many of them have passed on, too. They were not there Friday to read the inscription at the heart of the Wilcox County Veterans Memorial: “Freedom Is Not Free.”

They were not there to see the placement of a wreath. Or hear the prayers, pledges and anthems, or the keynote speech by retired Brig. Gen. John C. Bahnsen, a native of Wilcox County. At the end of the ceremony, the bugle softly played “Taps.”

It took more than a year to pull this together, to rally the citizens, raise the money and research the records of every veteran for 380 square miles.

“We’re about 50 years late,” said Bill Sutton, chairman of the veterans committee. “Some of these boys are gone. Their mothers and fathers are gone. Their families are gone.”

Better late than never, though. From the beginning, Sutton reminded folks of the sacrifices made by those they were seeking to honor.

“They didn’t quit,” Sutton told them. “Neither can we.”

Sutton is a businessman in Rochelle who opened the town’s first Dairy Queen. He spent a year in Vietnam in 1968. He is the baby of a “Band of Brothers” who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Twenty years separated George Henry (deceased), Charles Otis, Bobbie, Johnny, Floyd, James and Bill Sutton.

The 43 deaths listed from World War II include brothers, too. Marcus and Luther Miller are buried at the cemetery in Pitts. John D. and Wilson E. Jones, of Seville, were killed in action two days apart.

“I knew most of them or knew their families,” said Sutton, his eyes moving across the granite.

Now they can be assured they will never be forgotten.

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