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Taylor conducts moving tribute to lost comrades

Chaplain Arnold Taylor conducted the final memorial service July 22 during the 62nd annual convention of the 99th Infantry Division Association.

VFW Post 7397, Lenexa KS Color Guard, presented the colors. The past presidents in attendance followed the colors.

The audience joined in singing the opening hymn, “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by Herman Saunders on the piano.

B.O. Wilkiins’ daughter, Melanie sang “Another Soldier Has Died.”

Following the opening prayer, Taylor offered these words:

“The time of death is one of the most awesome moments in life. It is so final.

“In death we touch base with the eternal, which we usually postpone for as long as possible. With good reason, for there is much beauty and joy in life that mingles with the struggles and heartaches that come our way and it is that good stuff that we want never to end.

“So, death is popularly seen as an enemy; but in fact, it has a blessed function.

“Those of our number whom we remember this day, who served in the 99th Infantry Division in time of war survived, and returned home to become part of “The Greatest Generation,” have gone to their eternal award. Bless their hearts! We honor them this day – as always in our memory.

“For many of them, death has been a release from pain and incapacitation. Example: Last year when Lilian and I arrived in Louisville for the 61st reunion of this association, we were called away because her brother Henry, who had earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in warfare in Italy with the Red Bull Division, was sinking fast. He’d been fighting a losing battle with liver cancer and was unable to do more than get from the bed to a chair – and that with great difficulty. He had told me on a prior visit that he wished it would be all over. His death came as a hardship on us, but a great relief to him.

“I suspect that there are several of those whom we remember this day who had similar thoughts.

“Having served for many years in a hospice movement in my parish, I can attest that there are some things worse than death.

“Our own Col. Carlo Biggio, who died two years ago, had similar feelings. He had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, could neither move his body nor speak, but his mind was sharp. He wrote to me in a labored letter that he abhorred being in that prison. Death was a release for him, but a hurt for his family and those of us who cared about him. But he is at rest, having lived long, served his country well, been a productive and constructive member of his community and, by the way, having created some beautiful paintings.

“”The reality is that we all must die someday even as the oak tree must someday die, having bathed us in shade from a blistering sun, fed the squirrels, provided a home for the birds, and committed no sin.

“Nevertheless, the end would certainly come in time even for the stately oak tree – even for as dynamic a man as B.O. Wilkins, who was a singing member of the late Checkerboard Chorus, served as president of our association in 2008, and was a key figure in getting veterans of K Company 393rd Regiment to our reunions every year.

“Like the oak tree, he nurtured and helped us, his church, his businesses and his family in many ways. Death came relatively quickly; but it came, even to as vital a man as B.O. Wilkins.

“So, death serves as a blessed timetable. It teaches us that every day is important.

“We know not when the end cometh for any of us – whether by the Master or a Mack truck, or a massing heaving of the earth, or a flood, or terrible illness; but if we take the specter of death seriously, it teaches us that NOW is the time to say, “I love you.” NOW is the time to keep open the lines of communication between our hearts and our Lord – and our neighbors – and our buddies in the 99th and their families. NOW is the time to be continually an expression of the love of God on the face of this earth.

“So we do well on this occasion to give thanks for the lives of those we now honor in this Memorial Service. They have been a powerful influence for good and it is incumbent upon us to carry on the tradition.

As their names are read, if you knew the person mentioned, shout a loud AMEN. If your heart cannot bear to bellow, at least raise your hand in recognition that we acknowledge the loss personally.

“Then as we leave this place, let us vow to keep in contact with those 99ers whom we know who still survive so that this reunion will not be our last chance to say ‘hello,’ will not be our last chance to say ‘thanks’ for their service in the great war; so that we may carry on in connection with each other, having constant reunions to our very end, and like the old oak tree, feed the needy, give shelter, and be building material for those who come after us. Amen.”

Those we remember

Taylor and Past President Herb Knapp read of the list of those members who died since previous reunion.

George Aaron 1/393

Richard B. Britton B/393

Donald E. Buck S/372

Carl Fie Chan Med/324

Wayne Cleveland I/394

Edward Dobrick A/324

Wilbur Fogle B/371

Seth Furnas E/394

Oliver Gaskell Unit unknown

Dr. Adam Geyer Jr. M/395

Samuel Turner Hart 395

Robert O. Howard Jr. O/799

Victor Huss B/324

Dr. John Ingram E/324

John Sasienski g/394

Ralph F. Jones I/395

Ronald Kraemer D/394

Iveal “Chubb” Davis M/393

Albert Elby K/393

George Libby K/394

Thomas Macha K/394

Nethery Smith Marrow

Unit unknown

Edouard Louis Martel 395

George W. Meloy I/393

Robert O. Miller S/371

Albert Mollaun L/393

Angelo Montrosse Q/370

James R. Moore Unit unknown

Walter Morrison 3/394

Carl Nasholm Unit unknown

Max Norris H/395

Cecil Palmer F/394

Stephen K. Plume Jr. K/393

Donald Prichard Unit unknown

Richard A. Ralston K/394

Albert “Spot” Redford Med/324

Herbert H. Richter Jr. S/099

Carlos “Rod” Rodriguez K/393

Earl M. Rogers 1/394

Frank Sadar A/372

Kent Stanger Can/395

Gerald Toy Unit unknown

Joseph Tylka L/395

Newton Wells Unit unknown

Donald Wiberg A/394

Donald Wieland G/393

B.O. Wilkins K/393

Stewart Boone sounded Taps and the colors were retired.

Melanie Wilkins sang, “Thank You,” followed by the audience joining in the closing song, “We’ll Meet Again.”

Knapp presented Wilkins with a certificate and gift in appreciation for her years of service as a soloist during memorial services.

Taylor offered a closing prayer, “Eternal God, through whose mighty power our loved ones have won our liberties, we thank thee for all thy servants who have died, who, in the course of their lives have given military service to this country, especially those whom we have remembered this day. Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may be ready to follow their examples of courage and loyalty and hard work; and may we have the grace and determination to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace to the glory of a God who set the standards for us. Amen.”

Last modified Dec. 23, 2011

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