By Kevin Fox
"For the band members it took what was a band trip to Hawaii and made it something much more special, thanks to the stories the veterans shared with us it will now become an experience!" stated Mr. Robert Dooley, Clark County R-1 Band Director. Mr. Dooley was speaking about the "Night To Honor WWII Veterans" hosted by St. Francisville Lodge #588 A.F. & A.M.
The evening began with a soup supper hosted by #40 Order of Eastern Star during which donations were accepted and later presented to the Clark County Marching Indians towards the expenses of the band’s trip to Pearl Harbor in June of 2008.
Following the supper, a flag posting ceremony was held as well as those in attendance giving the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner". Mr. Shawn McAfee with the help of Mrs. Alice McAfee served as master of ceremony. He gave the Welcome to the unforgettable and moving evening. Those present were treated to something very special as the stories of randomly selected Clark County WWII veterans were told. The band students, who played various patriotic as well as seasonal music throughout the evening, listened intently as history went from being something in a book to the very faces of grandparents or great uncles. Family members, even wives, heard for the first time of the horrific experiences the brave men and women went through to literally save the world. The stories were moving. This reporter was told repeatedly that although it was a good size crowd, you could have literally heard a pin drop as the accounts were being read.
Around twelve stories were told during the evening, which covered, combat in Europe and the Pacific. There were men who were in combat for 180 days and a woman who served in the Coast Guard as well as a woman who served in a hospital. All had the same theme, they would have preferred to be home with their family, and while they are proud of their service they are also very humble about it. Or as one veteran put it, "I did what I was told to do and that’s what kept me alive."
While pale in comparison to the stories of the veterans, there was special music during evening to salute the veterans including Daniel McAfee singing "Over There", Elsa Scott singing "Sentimental Journey", Shawn McAfee singing a revised rendition of the famous Bob Hope "Thanks For The Memories". McAfee had changed the lyrics to "Thanks For Our Liberties". Also performing were a trio of Daniel McAfee, Colin McCreedy, and Kevin Fox who sang "Lili Marlene" in honor of Fox’s late father who was a WWII veteran. The band’s various performances were also moving and during the evening a selection was played honoring each branch of service . Veterans of each branch stood to be recognized during the playing of their branches song. The evening came to an end with chorus members performing selected songs from "White Christmas" including "I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas" complete with snow falling on the stage which portrayed a winter scene.
Shawn McAfee who served as
the organizer of the event stated, "The band will be performing on
the deck of the USS Missouri which is where the peace treaty was signed bringing an end to WWII. As far as honoring our WWII veterans this is something that I wished we would have done earlier before my grandfather died. But when I learned of the trip last May , I just felt this was the time to do it. When I approached the brothers in the Lodge to ask for help and support, they supported whole heartedly. Our thoughts were to find a different way of raising money for the band as well as educating the band members a little more about WWII and we were successful on both those levels. Thanks to corporate donations as well as the free will offering at the soup supper and passing the hat during the evening, we were able to raise $8,849.50. It was just a super evening and one which I think the veterans as well as everyone enjoyed. After it was over a number of the veterans stayed around and talked to each other and shared more. I have no doubt now that we have created more of an awareness among the students and all of us about WWII and what our local veterans went though. I’m also sure that many of the students will now go home and see a picture of a grandparent in a uniform and ask questions about their service."
“It was a wonderful night to honor our area veterans,” said First District State Representative Brian Munzlinger, who was in attendance. Munzlinger stated that the State of Missouri offers service awards for veterans, and anyone who hasn’t received their award is encouraged to contact his office.