Honoring Those Who Gave All
This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend.
In the midst of much hype over the move to a “modified Phase 2” in the North Carolina – and what many people only see as a 3-day weekend at the start of summer – a number of citizens across Davidson didn’t lose sight of the importance of Memorial Day.
On Sunday afternoon, local veterans were joined by Scouts and JROTC cadets to place flags at the graves of the veterans buried in Davidson. In light of the restrictions in place, volunteers were asked to wear masks and to maintain a social distance. After a brief overview at Mimosa Cemetery on South Street the group was divided up, and volunteers dispersed to the 3 cemeteries located in town. Photos documenting their efforts can be found in a News of Davidson photo album.
In the end, they placed flags at the graves of more than 170 veterans – including a number of heroes who gave their lives in service to our Nation. The impact of their loss cannot be measured, but the group of volunteers honored their sacrifices in the simple gesture of placing the American flag on their graves. While a more detailed effort is underway to produce a more detailed accounting of the Veterans’ graves in town, volunteers identified the following: 27 Veterans buried at the Christian Aid Society Cemetery, 19 Veterans at the College Cemetery, and 128 Veterans at Mimosa Cemetery. But this is far more important than numbers, it is about the Veterans.
WWI Marine Reid Davis Cranford died at the Battle of Soissons with the 83rd Company of the 6th Regiment of Marines. He died the day after his 23rd birthday.
Navy Chief Machinist Mate Azra Ferguson went down with his ship – USS Rowan – off the coast of Salerno, Italy during WWII on September 11, 1943. Interestingly, the 31-year old Ferguson has grave markers in 2 of the town cemeteries.
Twenty-two year old Army soldier Houston Brown died in service during World War I. He is buried at the college cemetery on N. Main Street.
Lieutenant Walter E. Gurley, U.S. Army Air Forces, died on June 7, 1942. He was an Aerial Navigator with the 31st Bomber Squadron, and was lost during the Battle of Midway. His gravestone is at Mimosa Cemetery on South Street.
Army Lieutenant Henry Fulcher Jr. is buried at Mimosa Cemetery. He was 22-years old when he died.
CPT James Baker Woods III died in combat in Vietnam in 1966. The 26-year old son of Davidson is buried at Mimosa Cemetery – just feet away from his father, who served as an Army doctor in World War II.
Every combat death was an unfathomable loss for their family members and friends, but the set of side-by-side graves at the college cemetery
Lieutenant Edward J. Erwin Jr. is buried next to his brother, Captain G. Phifer Erwin. The brothers were Davidson graduates. Phifer Erwin was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, and died on January 26, 1945. Less than 3 weeks later, his brother Edward – an Infantry Lieutenant – died on Feb. 13. Their portraits hang in Erwin Lodge on the college campus. The lodge was a gift was from Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Erwin to honor their two sons. Dr. Erwin was an English professor at Davidson from 1920 to 1954 and Mrs. Erwin was a librarian at the college from 1942 to 1956.
The second event of the long weekend that honored the fallen took place on Monday afternoon. A smaller group of people arrived on the college campus about 2:30 p.m. and began placing 193 flags around the Davidson College War Memorial.
While volunteers have been placing flags at this memorial for the past 5 years, this year’s ceremony took on a special meaning as organizers sought to make the ceremony part of a larger, nationwide effort.
Last Friday night, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman encouraged communities to support an initiative called “Taps Across America.” The plan was to get as many buglers and trumpet players to honor the fallen by playing “Taps” at 3:00 p.m.
There was one big challenge – finding someone to play “Taps.” After a couple unsuccessful emails and phone calls. The effort to find someone who could do handle the musical assignment moved to social media. Within an hour of a Saturday night post, someone said – I have the perfect person.
That perfect person was 11-year old Ben Mitchell. Ben’s Mom was confident that her son could do it, but confirmed it with her son early Sunday morning. In fact, she sent along a video of Ben performing “Taps” in the hallway of the family’s home in Huntersville.
After the volunteers had placed the flags, they waited silently for the Westminster Chimes at Davidson College Presbyterian Church to sound. As they did, Ben walked slowly toward the Old Well on the college campus. After the clock struck 3, Ben raised the trumpet to his lips and rendered the 24 notes of “Taps” to perfection.
Ben has only been playing the trumpet for just over a year, but has already earned the distinction of being selected for the all-state band. When asked about the Monday’s ceremony, Ben said he “felt very honored” to have been asked to play “Taps.”
There is little doubt that Ben will be asked again. Photos and videos from the ceremony can be found here.