To the Editor:
As we near Veterans Day, I’d like to share with you a story about a young man at the age of 17 who left a well-paying job at Woodruff and Edwards, a foundry in Elgin, when the U.S. entered WWII.
His love for our country and his anger for what was occurring in nations throughout the world compelled him to enlist in the Army. His eagerness was not only to protect our country, but also to destroy murderous dictators threatening democracy around the world. After the war, this patriot came home with two Purple Hearts and a French war bride.
Being very proud of his service, he and several veteran friends physically built the American Legion Veterans Home Post 337. There were years that he served as the post’s commander-in-chief and his wife served as president of the post’s auxiliary. His daughter, granddaughters and great-granddaughters all are members of the auxiliary, the same post the daughter represented at Girls State.
The American Legion was very much a part of his life, and his service to our country did not end with his honorable discharge. He proudly marched in parades, flag in hand. Numerous times, he would leave work early, rushing home to change into uniform to respectfully participate in military funerals.
One year, I asked a young veteran who was being honored at a Veterans Day presentation if he was a member of the American Legion, from which he replied, “No, that’s an old man’s organization.” I’ve got news for him, “The old men are dying.”
Sgt. Arney made a pact with one of his buddies – whomever was the last to survive would fold the American flag at the other’s military funeral. I wonder, “Who folded his buddy’s flag?”
I encourage our men and women who sacrificed their lives by serving in our military to look into becoming a member of their local American Legion as they are hearing from others the words, “Thank you for your service.”
Daughter of Sgt. Wilbur Gene Arney, Lake in the Hills