The Steele City Campbell Klein American Legion Post 349 hosted the 2018 Jefferson County American Legion and auxiliary conference on Sunday February 4th in Steele City. Jefferson County Commissioner Mark Schoenrock addressed the conference noting that 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the post. Mark is a Life Member of the post. The post was founded in Steele City in 1918. Pictured are Schoenrock and fellow Jefferson County American Legion members Lyle Katz, Dan Swett, and Clinton Quintana. The meeting was conducted by post commander Lyle Katz and Jefferson County commander Bruce Junker.
This talk was given by LtCol (Ret.) Mark A. Schoenrock on February 4, 2018 at Steele City,
Nebraska Fellow American Legion comrades, fellow veterans, and friends, when my good friend Lyle Katz asked me to give this tribute today, to honor and remember the military veterans of Jefferson County, I was deeply honored and humbled. I am certain that what we say here will be wholly inadequate to truly honor the human effort, courage and bravery of the sons and daughters of Jefferson County who have answered their country’s call to defend freedom through the generations, but it is well worth our feeble human attempt to do so. To paraphrase a portion of the Gettysburg address, the world will little note nor long remember what we say here today, but it must never forget what they who are remembered here did in their generations. I was reminded of a charge that is contained in the Army Officer’s Guide which was issued to us newly minted Army officers back in the 1970s; they apply equally to members of all the armed services through all generations: our efforts ensure the security of our nation, the protection of our people, the support of our nation’s policies in its relations with other countries, and even to the course of history. These missions lead us to distant places, may involve placing our very lives on the line, the life or death of our comrades, and the success or failure of our nation’s mission. These are the reasons our armed forces are maintained, and why military duty has such vast significance. As Thomas Jefferson observed at the founding of our country, the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots; such it has been and such it will ever be if we are to maintain that liberty. As we honor those who served, let us not forget their families and loved ones as well. The life of a military family has special hardships, sacrifices, and rewards that only those who have served can ever know.
As this year 2018 marks the 100 th anniversary of our Steele City American Legion Post 349, today we are going to take a little journey, you and I, back 100 years to the fall of 1918. The place is Brest, France; the date is October 12, 1918, less than a month until the end of the “war to end all wars.” For a young soldier from Fairbury, on this day, in this place, far from his Nebraska home, everything will come to an end. It will be the last day of his young life upon the earth. I did not know James Deeter or his family. I have found very little on him in the issues of the Fairbury newspaper from that time. What I do know about him is that he answered his country’s call to duty and gave his life in that duty. James is buried in a beautiful country cemetery in the gentle rolling hills south of Thompson, one mile from our farm, where James and I grew to manhood, separated only by time. Think back with me for a moment and imagine what the day was like that he died in faraway France, how was he returned home, and what was the day like the day that his body was laid in his native land of Nebraska? The people that were there that day, grieving family and friends, have now all gone the way of the earth, as we too one day will also do when our time on earth is concluded. I visit his grave throughout the year to remember him and his service.
James is one of countless millions of Americans who have answered our country’s call to duty in each of their generations. Today, we honor him and all of those brave Americans who gave their lives in defense of our liberty and our way of life. In my years of service in the Pentagon, whenever I had a rare spare moment, one of my favorite activities was to walk across the street to Arlington National Cemetery. The solemnness of that most sacred ground forever stays with me. There by the tomb of John F. Kennedy, are inscribed the famous quotes of his life, one of which is: “In the long history of the world, few generations have had the privilege of defending freedom in her hour of peril: I do not shrink from this challenge, I welcome it.” Thus it was with James Deeter and all of those who came before and after his time on the earth.
General Douglas MacArthur in his farewell address at West Point said this about the American veteran: His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism; he belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom; he belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.
And so now I too as a son of Jefferson County join that long line of American veterans who have served the United States of America down through the generations, to be remembered simply as an American Soldier:
I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go,
and did what others failed to do.
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing and reluctantly accepted
the thought of eternal loneliness should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear; enjoyed
the sweet taste of a moment’s love.
I have cried, pained and hoped, but, most of all,
I have lived times others would say were best forgotten.
At least someday, I will be able to say that I am proud of what I was, an American Soldier.
In conclusion, I would like to share with you a thought that is attributed to Private Barry Benson of the Army of Northern Virginia honoring the veterans of the Civil War. It is a most fitting tribute to all veterans of every generation. “Who knows but it may be given to us after this life to meet again in the old quarters, to play chess and draughts, to get up soon to answer the morning roll call, to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade, and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle.
Who knows but again the old flags, ragged and torn, snapping in the wind, may face each other and flutter, pursuing and pursued, while the cries of victory fill a summer day? And after the battle, then the slain and wounded will arise, and all will meet together under the two flags, all sound and well, and there will be talking and laughter and cheers, and all will say, Did it not seem real? Was it not as in the old days?”