Veteran’s Day 2003

Last night as I was considering this story, I listened to “Soldier”, a song that was performed by The Dixie Chick. I can’t listen to that song without it putting tears in my eyes. It’s a story song about a soldier who is shipping out to Vietnam. He meets with a waitress and they exchange letters, she from the safety of the South, and he from the jungles of Southeast Asia. In the song, the soldier dies, and the young waitress is left to grieve. While I’m not sure if the song is based on a true story, it is a story that has been repeated through history.

I’m currently reading a history of America and I just finished the section on the Civil War. I knew it was costly, but I guess I never realized just how costly it was in terms of blood. Over 500,000 soldiers died between 1861 and 1865. More soldiers were killed in one day at Gettysburg than during the entire Vietnam war. Gettysburg we read about in history books, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars we’ve lived through.

James Walter Ellenburg

It’s terrible picking up the paper and reading the names of soldiers who have died in service of our country, but nothing brings the war home like losing a friend or neighbor.

The photo above is of James Walter Ellenburg who was smiling as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He was the son of James Lee and Margaret Ellenburg of the Sumiton area. The year was 1966 and he was about to ship out to Vietnam. James, like so many of our friends and neighbors from the Dora area gave his life so that we can experience the freedoms we enjoy today… freedoms that I’m sad to say, we sometimes take for granted.

I’m not sure I can express deeply enough the gratitude to he and the others who gave their lives for us. There are also thousands of men and women from our area who left their families for God forsaken places around the globe to serve our country. They served with honor and came back home to their homes and families. I know the families understood the cost of freedom and I’ve never known a soldier who took freedom for granted. I am grateful to them all.

I have started on a project of collecting the names of soldiers that attended Dora High School who died in war. My intention is to gather the names, all the photographs I can get, and a profile of each soldier. It will be a major project, but one I think is well worth the time. If you have information about any soldier, please send me the information. And today, November 11th, if you know a veteran, please take a moment to say thanks.

Rick Watson
U.S. Army 1971 – 1973

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