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
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.”