Friday, August 17, 2012
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Country, honor and God at the heart of Traveling World War II Memorial

Pillars of Honor visits Lincoln

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[August 17, 2012]  This memorial is about "country, honor and God!" Steven Schaefer, president of Pillars of Honor, declared with solemn conviction. His words fell on appreciative ears at American Legion Post 263 in Lincoln on Aug. 5. He was speaking to mostly veterans and their families who filled the hall for a special exhibit.

Schaefer was referring to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was completed in 2004, and to the cloaked table that lay before the audience.

Realizing that many of those for whom the national memorial was built would not see it, a passionate group of volunteers organized and arranged to borrow the original 800-pound model.

The Pillars of Honor organization, located in Des Plaines, has been taking the model and a full honor program on the road since 2010. The all-volunteer organization tries to be on the road once a month.

Local veterans who were present for special recognition and honor on Aug. 5 were James W. Logan and William B. Wyles. Each served in the Navy during WWII, with Logan later returning to serve our country in two additional wars: Korea and Vietnam.

Also honored were:

  • Eben B. Welchel Jr. (deceased) -- Army

  • Charles W. Anderson -- Air Force

  • Robert F. Hoffman (deceased) -- Navy

The two-hour program honoring those who defended our country included several forms of historical remembrances and ceremony.

WWII period songs and their significance to soldiers and their loved ones back at home were explained and sung by John and Kathryn Atwood.

The American Legion Post 263 honor guard presented colors and later built a memorial to prisoners of war and missing in action.

Taps was provided by Larry Buttimer of Bugles Across America.

Several guest speakers facilitated the program, with George Haupt delivering the keynote address. Haupt is a former presidential honor guard member, with his last formal duties in 1955 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Haupt began with the interesting history of Arlington Cemetery, where the Tomb of Unknown Soldier is located, and then spoke about what it was like being a tomb guard.

The use of the land now known as Arlington Cemetery to bury soldiers began with the marriage of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Mary Anna Custis. Commanders were responsible for the burial of their casualties.

Custis’ father and mother had acquired the property and left it to her. She and Gen. Lee left it to their son, Custis Lee. As a side note, Mary Anna Custis was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington.

The cemetery first remained family property, but against the family's wishes it was confiscated by the government in 1864. By Supreme Court decision it was returned to the family in 1874, and a year later Custis Lee sold it back to the U.S.

The first unknown soldier was laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Nov. 11, 1921.

Unknown soldiers representing WWI, WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War have all been interred in the tomb, with then-presidents presiding.

In 1984 DNA results identified the Vietnam soldier as 1st Lt. Michael Blassie from St. Louis, Mo. President Bill Clinton released his remains for the family to take back home.

While there are yet 84,000 unknown or missing in action, Haupt explained that with DNA tests today, it is highly unlikely there will be another unknown soldier.

The U.S. Army has guarded the Tomb of the Unknowns since July 2, 1937, with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment taking the perpetual guard since April 6, 1948.

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Of his role as one of the highest known disciplined positions in the services, Haupt said: "It was reverence of the visitors that brought value to being a tomb guard."

Haupt complimented those being honored by recalling the common descriptive phrase given to those who lived during that time as "the greatest generation." He said it was for being changers of history.

Before the traveling monument was unveiled, viewers were urged not to touch any part of it. Those who move the monument use gloves to prevent direct contact with skin oils that would damage it. The traveling monument is on loan, and when it is returned, it will one day go into the Smithsonian.

A bit about the monument in D.C.

The WWII monument is set in a 7.4-acre memorial site that has a parklike setting with trees, a reflective pool and falls for a calming, contemplative atmosphere. It is located between the Lincoln and Washington memorials.

Its design is full of symbolism. (See design elements.)

The entry stone reads:

Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the eighteenth century father and the other the nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle during the second world war and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: A nation conceived in liberty and justice.

Two arched pillars stand opposite each other, representing victories in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Inlaid metals declare victory "1941-1945" and the words "Victory on Land," "Victory at Sea" and "Victory in the Air" on the floors of the pavilions.

(See memorial inscriptions.)

Opposite the entry is the Freedom Wall, which has over 4,048 gold stars. Each star represents 100 American service personnel who died or remain missing.

The scale monument was brought to Lincoln by Lincoln Eagles Lodge 2708, American Legion Post 263 and Lincoln Sons of American Legion Squadron 263.

To learn more about the traveling monument, visit

The site offers a schedule of future engagements, opportunities to volunteer, donate or schedule a program. You may also call 847-954-0520


Other websites of interest:

National World War II Memorial:

The official website of Arlington National Cemetery:

Tomb of the Unknowns:


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