Division Memorials - Fort Benning

A monument to the 70th was dedicated at Fort Benning on October 6th, 1997. What follows is a picture of the monument, a speech by Don Docken, read at the memorial service, Ed Arnold's Homily and Frank Ellis's Proclamation.

Speeches by General Franks || General Blanchard || General Ernst
|| General Mataxis || Mr. Zeller

Remembering

Most of us have memories of comrades who gave the supreme sacrifice in our relatively short but furious action in Alsace-Lorraine. Let me share with you a couple of my memories that have been permanently etched in my mind.

He was a handsome young man with Spanish ancestry. Francis Hetzel was his name, my friend in the 1st Platoon, Co. C, 275th Inf. He was a quiet, friendly soldier with fine features and black hair. On Feb. 17, 1945 he was suddenly cut down by enemy machine gun fire as we were liberating a village by name of Lixing. I remember him! As he was lying there in death our platoon moved forward angrily shooting in every direction, advancing through the woods. Bill Rorabaugh, a fellow comrade, realized that the platoon was running short of ammunition, so he went back, knelt down beside Fran, and took his bandoleer. Fran not only gave his life, he gave another gift, his last ammunition. Bill knelt beside him in deep sadness, and then went on ahead. Bill remembers him! Another friend, Walter Szyszka, was a family man with a Polish background. He had five children back in the states. During one night a terrific barrage fell on our position. A small shell fragment came my way giving me a million-dollar wound, but Walter got a gut-full of shrapnel. I can still hear his cries of agony before he died. I remember him! Many of you could recount similar stories and memories.

Fort Benning Monument
The Monument dedicated at Ft. Benning on October 6th, 1997. It stands in front of the Infantry Museum.

However, what does it really mean to remember our fallen comrades. It means, of course, a Memorial Service such as this with our Book of Honor brought forward listing the names of our combat dead. It means, of course, the erection of our beautiful monument which we will dedicate tomorrow. We remember that they died for the cause of freedom and justice. They were cut down in the budding flower of their youth away from home in a foreign land. We remember them!

However, there is more to our remembering then just words, ceremonies, and monuments. Our fallen comrades speak to us from their graves asking us to do our part in making our community, our country, and our world a better place to live. They ask to to go beyond words and ceremonies and be leaders of God-fearing families, to stand up and speak out for high moral standards in our communities, and to be involved and participate in our elections. They ask us to not be afraid to fight evil and corruption. They remind us that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. They ask us not to retire from the arena of life, even at our age, but to keep working for peace and justice wherever we live and as long as we live. They remind us that we pass this way but once; any good we can do, do it now.

Bill Pierce (C/275) and the WebMaster!On the left Bill Pierce, Blazer veteran and webmaster Steve Dixon on the right. So I think that remembering is much more than Memorial services and monuments, as necessary and good as they are. It means to be a light in the world of darkness. I means keeping up the good fight of faith to our dying day. I know that the 70th veterans have done a lot of this kind of remembering. You have been leaders in establishing God-fearing homes. You have been influential leaders in many different fields. Your actions and examples have made difference for good in many communities throughout our nation, and a few even in the high councils of government.

We can be proud of our military service and more than proud of our contributions as citizens of this great country. The voices from the graves thank you and tell you to keep it up. I have lived long enough to know that even small acts and words can make a difference. Many of you may never know how effective you have been. We can make a difference. Besides that, we are obligated to our fallen comrades to seek to continue make that difference. The poet Archibold MacLeish said it well. Let me conclude with his solemn words.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses.
(who has not heard them?)

They have a silence that speaks for them at night,
And when the clocks count,

They say,
We have given our lives,
But until it is finished no one can know what
our lives gave.

They say,
our deaths are not ours,
They are yours, They will mean what you make them.
They say,
Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace
and new hope,
Or for nothing,
We cannot say,
It is you who must say this.

They say,
We leave you our deaths,
Give them meaning, Give them an end to war and a true peace,
Give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards.
Give them their meaning.

We are young , they say,
We have died,
Remember us.

L. Donald Docken
Memorial Service, Oct. 5, 1997
70th Infantry Division Monument Dedication
Ft. Benning, Georgia

P R O C L A M A T I O N

Inasmuch as residents of  Forbach, France erected a monument honoring  the
70th Infantry Division, in commemoration of their liberation and the 50th
Anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, our Association has
constructed a monument of similar design and placed it here on Sacrifice
Field.

As this dedication ceremony convenes, It is Hereby Proclaimed that this
monument shall, forever, officially honor all veterans, who served in any
branch or support element of the 70th Infantry Division, and it shall also
acknowledge the individual soldier's contributions to the Allied Victory in
this conflict.

Written by Frank Ellis (Medics/274) and delivered by him at the dedication
ceremony on 6 October 1997.

Trailblazers and family!
Trailblazers and family members at the Dedication. Photo by Bill Pierce C/275.

The Homily
by Ed Arnold

We are living in a strange world this weekend. We are surrounded by people who wear strange clothes. They speak a language that resembles ours but often leaves vast gaps of comprehension. Their work is not like ours. They make no product, grow no crop. They offer no obvious services we might use in our homes, our farms or our businesses. They not only live in an un-democratic society of sharply defined class and rank, they wear conspicuous insignia to proclaim their status. We are in the world of the Army. It is confusing; it is bewildering. And this, remember, is an Army at peace.

The world of the Army in wartime was even more bewildering-especially for 15,000 young Americans who were taken from their homes to become actors in the greatest drama of the century, of many centuries...some 50 years ago when the 70th Infantry Division was organized. They came from mammoth Manhattan; they came from tiny Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. They had lived on the Pacific bluffs of California and the Atlantic headlands of Maine. Home was the wheat farms of the nation's heartland; home was the bayou country of Louisiana and Mississippi. Many of them had never been outside their State before; some had not even been out of their county. They were far more bewildered then than we are today.

They were corn farmers and they were symphony musicians. They were high school dropouts and they were law students. They were engaged to their next-door sweetheart and one was the husband of a Hollywood movie star. They were sand-lot soft-ballers and one was an All- American football player. They attended the synagogue on Friday evening. Saturday services with Seventh Day Adventists and Catholics or Sabbath morning worship with Latter Day Saints or Methodists or Episcopalians. They sang exhilarating Baptist Gospel hymns and Bach's majestic Lutheran anthems.

They had dreams. They would take over the farm that had been in their family for a century. They would leave their rusting old mill towns in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and practice medicine or sell bonds in the canyon streets of Chicago. They would depart cotton gins and auto assembly lines to soar in skies where Lucky Lindy had flown. They would find the one girl whom God had created just for them and, with her, build a family and a shining future. Whether their goals were lofty or humble, the world was theirs to take. For they were young and to the young, as to the Lord Almighty, nothing is impossible.

But those dreams were shadowed by the surreal existence a world war imposes on soldiers. Their fore-shortened goal now was to endure the bewildering gauntlet of basic training. Slowly they learned that things could be done the right way or the Army way. They learned the new language of the Army - and added a few phrases of their own: Hubba-hubba! Oh my aching back! Blow it out your barracks bag and, of course, Snaa-fu! Those bright dreams, now shadowed, were totally darkened in the incredibly bewildering world of combat. Forget plans for the next 50 years. Now their best hope was to endure the next 50 yards of a mine field, the next 50-degree traverse of a machine gun nest, the next 50 seconds of hellfire of 88s and screaming meemies. And there some 700 young lives suddenly ended in the ultimate bewilderment of KIA-killed in action. Their last, incredulous, plaintive bewilderment was: "But I am young, I am immortal. How can this be happening to me?" With them died other dreams - of new brides, of young fiancées, of younger brides, of siblings, of suddenly aged parents. Shangri-La became a white cross at St. Avold, or Topeka or Smith's Corners.

There they lie today-our comrades, our brothers-in-arms. And we mourn for them. Often we weep in our hearts, sometimes in our handkerchiefs. We weep for them and we weep ourselves. For as they were deprived of dreams, we were deprived of lover, of husband, of father, of brother, of son and of friend. So we grieve. Yet we are proud in our grief. When the Star Spangled Banner is played we know it is played for them. For it was because of them that that star spangled flag yet flies over us and assures those cherished freedoms that define America. As the tears glide down our cheeks, our shoulders rise in pride. In pride over lives so meager in years but so rich in brave deeds. We cannot adequately say thank you to them. So we do our small best; a raise a stone to their eternal memory.

O, you young warriors! We old warriors salute you. We salute you with public rituals. We salute you with solitary prayers. We salute you with a great boulder fashioned into the shape of the axe-head we wore so proudly, you wore so gallantly. Young brothers, sleep well.

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