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Sunday, October 4, 2020

The photographs of 19 Kerr County heroes

Third Battalion, HQ Co, Kerr County, December 1, 1940
Click on any image to enlarge.

A long-time friend loaned me two interesting scrapbooks kept by her mother-in-law, with pages of information spanning several decades. In the books she kept a running journal of events in her family, in our community, and even in the world beyond Kerr County.

There were newspaper clippings of young brides and weddings, some projects of our local Lions Club, a series of centennial news stories published in the 1960s about the American Civil War, plus much more. The scrapbooks are comprehensive and fun to read through – and it was obvious they took a lot of work to compile.

A few of the pages were especially poignant. These were pages of newspaper clippings from the early to mid-1940s – the war years.

On the grounds of the Kerr County courthouse stands a memorial to those local men who’ve given their life in the service of their country. It was unveiled on May 23, 1992 after years of planning and discussion, and additional panels were dedicated later, on July 4, 2015. 

Starting with World War I and continuing through the recent (and ongoing) conflicts in the Middle East, the handsome memorial is a quiet tribute to those who paid such a dear price for our many freedoms.

I often stop by the memorial when I have business in the courthouse and read through the names. The war with the most names is World War II, of course. There are 48 names listed there for that war (though one, Dempsey Ballard, was placed there by mistake; he spoke at the dedication in 1992.)

The scrapbooks loaned to me have a valuable gift to our community safely recorded in their pages: the newspaper photos of 19 of the World War II servicemen listed on the war memorial. It’s one thing to solemnly read the names carved in stone, and to honor them in that way, but it is quite another to see their faces.

They were all so young.

The aging clippings were pasted on several pages, and many of them have turned dark, like leaves in autumn. Despite the age of the clippings you can still see the young men’s warm smiles and their sharp military uniforms. Some of the portraits capture serious expressions, but many show relaxed soldiers at peace in front of the camera.

Here are the names of the soldiers for whom I found photographs in the scrapbooks: Jimmy Beddingfield; Willis Carlisle; Pete Castillo; Dale Crider; L. T. Davis, Jr.; Charles Foster; Paul Grona; John Harris; John Heard; Kenneth Lowrance; Howard Marlar; Cyrus Miller; Charles Nichols; Emmett Rhoden; Eugene Ridgaway; Charles Rose; Frank Sheffield, Jr.; Alfredo Villareal; and Ben Zumwalt.

Perhaps the best tribute to these fallen World War II soldiers came from the man whose name was accidently placed on the memorial. Dempsey Ballard spoke at the May, 1992 unveiling ceremony. He knew many of the men listed on the memorial.

It was fortunate his name was on the memorial, he said, because “these heroes have a messenger to tell their story.”

I was there the day Ballard spoke. When he spoke, the audience was very quiet, and seemed to lean in closer to hear what he had to say. He told how these men loved their country, how they loved the Texas hill country. He was their messenger.

And now we can see some of their faces.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is certainly enjoying this cooler weather. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 3, 2020.

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