MEMORIAL DAY – HONORING THOSE

WHO 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 were wounded.

        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 relatives.

        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 men.”

        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 Patch.

       

        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.

 

Away

I can not say, and I will not say

That he is dead. – He is just away!

 

With a cheery smile, and a wave of his hand,

He has wandered into an unknown land.

 

And left us dreaming how very fair

It needs must be, since he lingers there.

 

And you – O you, who the wildest yearn

For the old-time step and the glad return.

 

Think of him faring on, as dear

In the love of There as the love of Here;

 

And loyal still, as he gave the blows

Of his warrior-strength to his country’s foes.

 

Mild and gentle, as he was brave,

When the sweetest love of his life he gave

 

To simple things: - Where the violets grew

Blue as his eyes they were likened to,

 

The touches of his hands have strayed

As reverently as his lips have prayed:

 

When the little brown thrush that harshly chirred

Was dear to him as the mocking-bird;

 

And he pitied as much as a man in pain

A writing honey-bee wet with rain.

 

Think of him still as the same I say:

He is not dead-he is just away!