Saturday, May 26, 2012

Remember Those Who Served - Union Hill

On behalf of those who have served, buried here, in the ground at our feet, I thank you for being here.

As Lehighton native, Major General Marvin Jay Barry reminded us at a program at the Middle School: Freedom is not Free.  Therefore it is incumbent upon us to hallow this day, to remember those who have served this great country of ours.

Your presence here, honors them.

We cannot measure what each one of them did for us. 

As a local historian, I have walked many of these grave yards for years, trying to root out their stories, to make their presence known to the students and in our community, and I have found that Carbon County has never had a shortage of citizens willing to pitch in for the common good. 

And this small community of Union Hill has produced many.  

The Held home on Union Hill as it looked before World War II
In World War I, Hal Hongen died in base hospital #17 in Dijon France.

Though his body is not there, his parents noted his
life on their family tombstone in Union Hill Cemetery.
In World War II, there are three among the KIA there of particular note: Walter Haydt was a radioman on a B-24 Liberator.  He and his crew crashed on Hinchinbrook Island, Australia on December 18, 1942.  Elwood Miller was killed at the battle of Guadalcanal Island in 1943.  And Reed G. Held was shot down sometime after December 31, 1943.   He was a college graduate and entered the navy as an ensign.  The navy sent him to M.I.T. to study advance radar systems.  It is said he was on a surveillance mission when he was shot down, which is why the full story was never revealed. 
The tail piece of Haydt's "Texas Terror" B-24 Liberator
discovered in 1944 on Hinchinbrook Island
Australia.  The flight was carrying $100,000.

Although neither Haydt’s or Held’s body was ever recovered the remains of Haydt's crew was discovered a few years later on Hinchinbrook Island, Australia.  The Air Force sent in a team and tenderly relocated the remains of the crew to North Platte, Nebraska.  Haydt was a radiomen on the 90th Bomb Group crew.

The plane was carrying $100,000 in troop payroll.  Discovery of the wreckage was helped after aborigines were found spending the US currency.  There are several mysteries connected with the flight, one includes extra male personal that weren't originally accounted for.  No women were known to be aboard but a red stiletto heeled shoe was found.     
Memorial dedicated to the crash victims at
the site.

Close-up of site memorial.  Walter
Haydt was the radio operator in the "Texas
Terror" B-24 Liberator.

Reed Held was known to be on a secret Cold War flight also in the Pacific area when he was shot down.  

Residents should remember these fallen sons each time they drive on Held Street, where Reed was raised.  The Shoemaker-Haydt Lehighton Legion Post #314 is named for Walter and the Elwood M. Miller AmVets Post in Lehighton honors Elwood.
Another Union Hill son goes down in the Pacific - Elwood M.
Miller.  His death was commemorated with the naming of
the Elwood M. Miller AmVets Post in Lehighton.

And the Held home on Held Street as it looks today.
Purchased shortly after the death of Reed's father Marvin in 1995,
the home has been tastefully restored by Kelli and Steve Rex. 

John Penberth died at Iwo Jima in spring of 1945.

After son John died at Iwo Jima in 1945, parents
Edwin and Mary son followed.
One can only imagine the strains a family must bear.  Haydt’s parents agonized for months to know his fate.  One Marine buried here, John Penberth, died at Iwo Jima, March 1945.  His mother Mary died five years later.  His father Edwin followed her in another five years.  All three are buried together in Union Hill Cemetery.

In Korea, Richard Whiteman died battling the Chinese on October 18th, 1952. 

Andrea Beth Miller was murdered in her apartment
in Germany on Christmas Day, 1984.  To date, the
circumstances are a mystery.
The most recent soldier killed while in service buried here is Sgt. Andrea Beth Miller.  She was only 22 when she died in 1984 while stationed in West Germany.  She was a 1980 Lehighton graduate and a member of the bandfront.

So many men and women were unable to come home. 

How can we measure their loss to their families?  To their friends?  To their community?

We too, must recognize the service of those who did return.  And their service often times did not end there.  Many came home and served their communities.

Walter Haydt’s brother Earl was wounded twice in Europe.  Struggling with frostbite at the Battle of the Bulge, he desperately took the boots of a dead soldier to save his own feet.  The Haydt’s nearly lost a second son when Earl caught shrapnel from a bomb that killed many in his unit.

Clarence Getz, brother to Bob, served in WWII and
Jacob's United Church of Christ in Weissport.

Parents of Bob and Clarence Getz.
Ray Haydt is now the last survivor of his family.  He still lives on Union Hill and is the oldest native resident there.  Though he was drafted and he tried to enlist, he was 4-F due to his irregular heartbeat and ear issues.  But still, he serves his community in the Franklin Lions and at Jacob’s United Church of Christ. 

Two other men of distinction who served in WWII and Jacob's United Church of Christ are Robert and Clarence Getz.  They came to Union Hill from Albrightsville.  Their father Issac died quite young in 1927 and their mother Lauretta did her best to hold her large family together.  Bob still lives in Lehighton though his dear wife Jane recently passed away.  His brother Clarence died in 1997 and was a major influence on the musical service at the church for many years after the war and is still kindly remembered there.  Bob still sings on the choir.    

Ernie Bauer came home from the Great War and lived a humble life here on Union Hill.  I wish I had appreciated then his service.  He is one who selflessly gave.  Ernie lived in the old brethren church at the end of Fairview Street.  I remember his tireless work in our church as I was growing up, as with an unassuming smile, hiding his sacrifice in the great war.

Ernest and Vivian Bauer's home as it looks today
at the end of Fairview Street.  It was built in 1894
by the Brethren Church that eventually became
Salem Bible Fellowship Church.

Harry Steigerwalt came home and became a Scout Leader like so many other servicemen.

My dad Randy Rabenold ran the Jim Thorpe Summer Basketball league for 50 years and also worked with the Volunteers for Literacy after coming home from the war in Korea.

The list goes on and on.  Many stand as pillars in our community: Reds O’Donnell, Ray Koons, Mike Ebbert, Jimmy Wentz, Kevin Long, Larry Ahner, Steve “Hogan” Ebbert…far too many to continue to mention here.
Veteran Ernie Bauer's home was originally the first
home of the Salem Bible Fellowship Church.  I
attended the Cypress Street Church and also the
final succession out along the Mahoning Creek
in Mahoning Township before joining Jacob's United
Church of Christ. 

And some serve in unknown ways too. 

Union Hill neighbor volunteers for the non-profit group “Soldiers Angels.”  He recently helped an Iraqi IED survivor get his first adaptive computer.  The vet, who lost both legs and an arm, was ever so grateful to be able to interact with others and play video games with this device.  But most of all, he was grateful to be simply remembered.

One Coast Guard veteran, who lives on Union Hill, has put in uncounted hours honoring these dead and others by clearing out brush, filling in sunken graves and much more.  But he didn’t tell me.  I had to discover this from his neighbors.  I can’t mention his name here.  He, like so many people like him, do so only if they can remain nameless.

Selfless dedication: Something for all of us to admire and respect.

Thank you, to all who once served and to those who continue to serve for those who no longer can.

It is for us to gather here to remember them, to ponder their loss from their family, and the loss felt by this community as well.  Their loss has become our loss.

Please continue to remember them.

A small selection of the many other Union Hill service graves: