DAY – HONORING THOSE
SERVED AND DIED
Memorial Day is the day to honoring and remember those gallant men who
lost their lives in battle in the defense of our country to keep our homeland
safe against outside forces.
Several years ago, I wrote a remembrance of one of the Monroe boys who
lost his life during World War II, Lt. Richard Cooper Dodson, son of the late
Nellie Cooper Dodson Adams and Jack Bascom Dodson. While I never knew Cooper, I
did know his mother, one of the sweetest and most gracious of ladies. Every so
often I visit his grave along with pausing at the markers of two other Monroe
boys who gave their lives in service to our country. For this Memorial Day I
wish to pay honor and tribute to two
well-known Monroe names, George B. Nunnally, brother of the late Dr. Harry B.
Nunnally and Harry B. Launius, Jr.
On December 7, 1941, the world as we knew it was forever changed.
After that horrific day, a call went out for all able bodied men and boys
to rally to the defense of their country to help protect the safety and
well-being of the United States of America.
When the call for duty came to Monroe, our men and boys of age dutifully
signed up for service. Even three of our beloved doctors, Stewart, Huie &
Nunnally were called to serve on ships and on the ground tending to those who
George Brown Nunnally was the son of the late Dr. & Mrs. Harry B.
Nunnally. He attended the Monroe
Public Schools and in his senior year attended the Georgia Vocational &
Trades School in order to have the opportunity of playing football.
After the death of his father, George joined the Nunnally Lumber Company
in May, 1936, as directed by his uncle, J.R. Nunnally, and the following year
attended Emory University, later accepting a position with the Fire Companies
Adjustment Bureau in Atlanta.
George Nunnally volunteered for Army service in January, 1941, nearly a
year before Pearl Harbor. He entered
Camp Jackson, Columbia, SC as a private and soon attained the rank of Corporal
and Sergeant and then obtained his commission as Second Lieutenant at Fort Knox,
Kentucky a year later.
He left shortly after that for overseas where he went to North Africa and
soon volunteered for service as a Ranger. In his letters home he stated he
deemed it his duty to volunteer for such service, as members of this branch were
so badly needed.
He was in command of his unit
of Rangers when he was wounded in North Africa on September 13, 1943 and spent
time in a hospital in Egypt. In the
meantime his outstanding valor had won him his commission as First Lieutenant
and the decorations of the Purple Heart and Silver Star.
After leaving the hospital, he promptly rejoined his unit and made no
effort to obtain leave for a visit home as he declared his services were needed
by his country.
The Walton Tribune posted in the October 8th and 22nd
1943 issues of the
paper of his being wounded and then recalling the letters home he had written
his family letting them know he was well, bringing much relief among his
Lieutenant George Nunnally was killed in action at Anzio Beach, Italy on
January 30th 1944 at age 25 and is buried in Anzio, Italy. He was
also the first Monroe boy to be killed in action defending his country.
On Sunday, March 19, 1944, a memorial service was held at the First
Baptist Church for Lieut. Nunnally with Rev. James W. Segars reading Scripture
and Rev. J. L. Drake’s rendering the poem by Kipling, “Recessional”, along
with the reading of the Silver Star citation which was awarded Lt. Nunnally and
concluding the service, taps was played by Bill Wells.
When the call came for Harry Launius, Jr., he was ready to serve his
country in whatever way was needed. Harry was born on June 17, 1925 to Harry
Bell and Sally Evans Launius. He was
an honors graduate of the Monroe High School, class of 1942.
Two of his best friends, Charles W. Henson, Jr. and Warren Clegg,
remember Harry Jr. as being of average height and while he was a member of the
Monroe High basketball team, he was not one who “stood out” on the squad.
His interests seemed more intellectual than physical.
After graduation from Monroe High School, Harry, Jr. spent a year at the
Citadel in Charleston, S.C. before joining the Army in the fall of 1943.
Both Mr. Clegg and Mr. Henson remembered, “Joining the service was
about patriotism; it was not something we thought about, we just did it.”
On Jan. 9, 1945, The Walton Tribune reported Harry, Jr. was missing in
action in Germany. The weekly paper
added Harry, Jr. was “one of Monroe’s finest and most promising young
Shortly after The Tribune reported he was killed in action on January 26,
1945. As the reports began trickling
in to the family from the War Department, the first, arriving on January 20
saying he was missing in action. The
second said he was found alive and was with his unit. The third reported him
again missing and the fourth confirmed he was killed near Luxembourg fighting in
the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle the U.S. was involved in during
the war. Harry, Jr. was only 20 years old. He
was buried in the US Military Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg. He was one of 15
Monroe High School students who died during WWII.
For his sacrifice he was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat
The Launius family were intensely private and the death of their only
child was a tremendous loss to all the relatives. Family members said that
Harry, Jr. did not seem the type for battle but nonetheless would not shirk what
he felt was his responsibility. After his death, Mr. or Mrs. Launius never spoke
of their son’s passing; it was too devastating to recall such a great loss.
While Harry, Jr.’s death may not have been discussed, his parents
wanted to make sure that Monroe would know and remember this terrible war and
the supreme sacrifices so many Monroe boys made. Quietly and without fanfare,
Harry and Sally Launius put plans into action to commemorate their son’s life
and sacrifices to his country.
By 1947 a beautiful, marble-faced library had been built on the property
of Monroe High School on Bold Springs Avenue which connected to the school
building and the words “Memorial Library” was engraved above the entrance.
This building was erected to honor their son along with all the Monroe boys who
served in action during the war. Inside
the library was a large brass plaque which listed the names of the soldiers from
Monroe High School who served along with asterisk’s next to those who died
during WWII. Sadly, this plaque disappeared from the building years after it was
closed but on page 739 of Anita Sams’ “Wayfarers in Walton” is a listing
of names taken from that plaque.
When the new First Methodist Church was completed in 1950, Harry and
Sally Launius again showed appreciation for their son by providing money early
on for the Launius Memorial Chapel on the left side of the building.
This quiet, beautiful chapel has been in constant use over the years
serving as a place for weddings, christenings, funerals or just thoughtful
meditation. On the wall to the left of the double doors opening into the chapel
is a framed portrait of Harry B. Launius, Jr. in his Army uniform.
As we celebrate this Memorial Day and in honor & memory of Harry
Launius, Jr., George Nunnally and all those who gave their lives to keep our
country free and safe, I pass along a poem by James Whitcomb Riley, who, in
1884, had possibly lost a friend or loved one in battle. These beautiful words
show the intense feelings of love, despair and loss yet remembering that even
though gone in the physical sense, love remains intact.
can not say, and I will not say
he is dead. – He is just away!
a cheery smile, and a wave of his hand,
has wandered into an unknown land.
left us dreaming how very fair
needs must be, since he lingers there.
you – O you, who the wildest yearn
the old-time step and the glad return.
of him faring on, as dear
the love of There as the love of Here;
loyal still, as he gave the blows
his warrior-strength to his country’s foes.
and gentle, as he was brave,
the sweetest love of his life he gave
simple things: - Where the violets grew
as his eyes they were likened to,
touches of his hands have strayed
reverently as his lips have prayed:
the little brown thrush that harshly chirred
dear to him as the mocking-bird;
he pitied as much as a man in pain
writing honey-bee wet with rain.
of him still as the same I say:
is not dead-he is just away!