Virginia Soldier Died in Battle at Germany’s Siegfried Line

??????????[Editor’s Note: On March 21, 1945, the uncle I never knew was killed just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe. He was 27 years old, my mother’s oldest brother. She was a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia, when her brother Clarence, the oldest of nine siblings, paid the ultimate sacrifice. She still remembers her mother’s reaction that fateful day when the official government car drove up the driveway of her parents’ Chesterfield County farm many decades ago, and how her mother’s knees buckled as she realized the presence of that car meant her son was not coming home. Mom says her mother, who lived into her 80s, never got over the loss.

After retiring from her job, Mom spent hours researching to fill the void of not knowing exactly what happened to her brother and, through her research, eventually found Clarence’s sergeant, Dock Roberts, living in Texas. Another soldier buddy, Emelio Albert, lived in California. She traveled to both places to talk with them to learn about her brother’s journey as a U.S. Army soldier through war-torn Europe, and his final hours, and she documented the treasured research for our family history. This is her story. I have edited and included links to more detailed historical accounts.]

Italian Campaign
The Italian Campaign was one of the most difficult of World War II. Some of the most exhausting battles for foot soldiers took place in Italy with its rugged mountains, and heavy snows in the winter of 1943 were followed by extensive cold rains in the late winter and spring of 1944. The ground turned into a quagmire and foxholes were filled with water. Mud was so deep it was nearly impassable for vehicles as well as men on foot. By the summer of 1944, the dry weather turned the earth to dust which swirled at the least disturbance. The Division veterans’ most vivid memories of the Italian fighting were the weather and terrain.

Clarence was sent from Virginia to the Texas National Guard as they replenished their ranks, and spent 15 months as a First Gunner in the Mortar Squad. Their Division played a big role in the war, joining other American forces in the liberation of the little town of San Pietro, located in southern Italy, from the Germans.

From there they battled their way to the Riviera in southern France, and onward to the northern border of France plus one day in Germany. Clarence was killed in the last great battle of the 36th Division of the 1st Battalion, Company D, 143rd Infantry Regiment of the Texas National Guard.
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Sunday Memorial Day Ceremony in Churchville To Honor Native Son

World War I Dough Boy tombstone for Russell Snyder, located in Green Hill Cemetery, Churchville, Virginia. Born Aug 30, 1892, died Oct 8, 1918. Pvt, 11 Co CAC, Fort Mott, Salem, NJ. The statue is extremely detailed and must have cost a great deal of money. Here is a better photo of the dough boy tombstone.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Will Bear in Churchville with an invitation to the Memorial Day observance on Sunday, May 28,  at Green Hill Cemetery. It is a local commemoration that is open to the public, and is a reminder of why we remember all fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.

A casualty of World War II, Winfield Liggett is buried in France but a headstone in Churchville is a reminder of this native son.

This year will feature a local family’s contribution to the world’s largest amphibious military operation to liberate World War II France. Winfield Liggett III was assigned to what would often be the lead company (of the lead battalion of the lead regiment) of the 29th Division offensive operations. Wounded in the Normandy invasions, he returned to France and later died in the intense fight for the port city of Brest.

Jimmy Kilbourne,  Executive Director of Staunton’s Stonewall Brigade 116th Infantry Regiment Foundation and Museum, has compiled his research about this Virginian to reveal the fascinating story of sacrifice for freedom.

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Memorial Day 2017 … Small Town Honors Fallen With Moment of Silence

American flag 5

The annual Memorial Day tribute in front of our house from my Air Force Vietnam-era veteran husband.

On this Memorial Day weekend, a special memory comes to mind that epitomizes the meaning of the day.

It was Memorial Day in 2009 in the central Shenandoah Valley. My sister and I had made a last-minute trip to the local Food Lion in Staunton for a forgotten cookout item when now-retired manager Dan Pritchett’s voice came over the intercom at the Coalter Street store. In his soft southern voice, he addressed employees and customers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is Memorial Day. The store will shut down for the next 60 seconds as we observe a moment of silence in honor of America’s fallen heroes.”

Perhaps this is one of the things I love most about living in a small town.

Dan Pritchett

News Leader photo

It was 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, the time of the national moment of silence. The cashiers stopped checking out customers. Muzak was turned off. Customers paused in aisles while employees ceased working. The store was essentially shut down and for the next 60 seconds all observed a moment of silence for America’s fallen military heroes. Among those was an uncle I never knew, a casualty of battle in Germany just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe.

Thanks to Mr. Pritchett, the small town of Staunton in western Virginia paused to remember … this town that is home to the Stonewall Brigade, the 116th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army National Guard, founded in 1741 and active during the Civil War, World War II, and most recently deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan … this community that turns out when troops deploy and return from battle.

It is also home to the Statler Brothers whose “More Than a Name on a Wall” is their own hauntingly poignant tribute to those who died for God and country, and returned home draped in the American flag: “She said, ‘Lord my boy was special and he meant so much to me. And oh I’d love to see him just one more time, you see. All I have are the memories and the moments to recall. So Lord could You tell him he’s more than a name on a wall.’ ”

Freedom is not free….

Staunton area community welcomed home the Stonewall Brigade in 2011 after deployment to Iraq.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Frontier Culture Museum ‘Pay What You Will’ on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day Monday, May 29, the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton will celebrate May Fair and, best of all, it will be a “Pay What You Will Day” so you decide how much to pay for admission: pay a little, pay a lot, or pay nothing at all.

During the 16 years that we educated our children at home, our one-income family lived on a tight budget and often could not take in all the historical sites we wanted to see so a “pay what you will” admission is helpful for families who are in the same place.

If you have never experienced the Frontier Culture Museum, or if you’ve been multiple times throughout the years, Monday will be a great time to join in the fun, enjoy hands-on history, explore the early days of 1600s England, 1700s Ireland, 1700s Germany, pioneer America, and 1700s West Africa. Interact with on-site historical interpreters dressed as the country they represent as they go about the daily tasks of the time — cooking, spinning, basket weaving, gardening, and other chores common to the time period.

Stroll the trail between the Old Country and pioneer Early America. Linger at the forge in Ireland and watch the smithy at work. Pause to talk with the animals — sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens. Explore the Indian village. Stop by the rustic 1740s log cabin, then discover how early American housing advanced with the 1820s and 1850s American farm houses. Peek inside the school house.

Bring the entire family from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm to experience the living history, enjoy lunch on the Museum’s Pavilion with live musical entertainment, and visit the Artisan Vendor Fair in the Courtyard throughout the day.

ARTISAN FAIR:  (9:00 am – 5:00 pm) 
Shop the artisan craft booths located in the Museum’s newly expanded courtyard throughout the entire day. Visit the caricaturist, face painter, and ballon twister too!

FOOD VENDORS:  (9:00 am – 5:00 pm)
Area food vendors will be on hand beginning at 9:00 am.

LIVING HISTORY ACTIVITIES:

  • Old World Exhibits: (9:00 – Noon)
    • West Africa: Drum and Dance/Gardening
    • England: Green Woodworking/Herbals in the Garden
    • Ireland: Natural Dyeing/Spinning
    • Germany: Games/Gardening
      .
  • Lunch: (Noon – 2:00)
    • Pavilion:  Take a lunch break under our covered pavilion or at the picnic tables
  • America Exhibits:  (2:00 – 5:00)
    • Ganatastwi: Clay cooking pot construction/ Fire Starting
    • 1740’s Settlement: Court Days and Militia Drill
    • 1820’s American Farm: Bread oven baking/Doll making
    • 1850’s American Farm: Basketmaking
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Siobhan Dunnavant Withdraws Reeves Endorsement for LG

With less than a month until the June 13th Republican Primary, State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant has withdrawn her endorsement of fellow Senator Bryce Reeves in his run for Lieutenant Governor.

Published late Friday night on Facebook, Senator Dunnavant explained how she came to that conclusion:

Several weeks ago, the Reeves campaign for LG released an online ad featuring me and five other Republican members of the General Assembly — all female legislators. I had significant concerns about the message of the ad. Concerns about my endorsement, my name and my reputation being used in this way without my consent. My endorsement of Senator Reeves was intended as a positive affirmation of my belief that he would make a good Lieutenant Governor.
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Bear Under the Deck

A bumping outside the window woke me this morning around 4:00. Edging over to the open window, I listened to the bump and then heard the snort.

Bear.

Our garbage cans are kept under the deck. Only one had trash — one bag — but the full-grown black bear was in the process of knocking them all over to be sure there wasn’t anything more than what he was able to drag out and spread all over the ground.

I shined my small flashlight out the window and caught the shadowy outline of our woodland visitor. Padding across the carpeted floor, I gently shook a sleeping Mr. Mitchell.

“Hmm?” he responded, groggily. Guys sleep through anything.

“There’s a bear in the trash,” I whispered. I wasn’t sure what he could do about it but it seemed only reasonable that I should share this pre-dawn moment by disrupting his sleep.

He stumbled out of bed and disappeared into his man cave, coming back with a handheld spotlight. Did I hear him say it was a million watts? Whatever it was, it was bright.

Positioning himself at the widow, he pointed the spotlight in the direction of the bumping and snorting. There it was … a full-grown black bear pawing through our discarded water bottles, empty cans, used paper towels, and all the other assorted odds and ends found in the family trash.

With iPhone in hand, I snapped some photos but the combination of darkness, the screen on the window, and distance made it difficult to get a clear picture. The bear ate. I took pics. The bear pawed through the pile. More pics. More pawing and eating.

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The mountain was calling: when the first child makes you a mother

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina. Highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet elevation. Record snowfall during winter with some form of snow observed every month of the year. One snowstorm in January 2016 dumped 66 inches of the white stuff. Extremely high winds have been clocked … wicked lightning storms. Extraordinary views. Named after Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who determined Mount Mitchell was the highest mountain in the eastern U.S. … Dr. Mitchell, who tragically fell to his death in 1857 when he slipped at the top of Mitchell Falls located on the slopes of the mountain …  and is buried on the peak of Mount Mitchell.

That was the place I chose to spend my first Mother’s Day in 1984. Our son was three months old. Near the summit was a picnic shelter where we spread out our lunch. Nearby a visitor center, a restaurant, and a trail to the top. It was our first visit to Mount Mitchell, but it was by no means our last. Throughout the twelve years we lived in NC, we often visited.

Today I thought of that day and our time on the mountain where we explored, dined on picnic food, and enjoyed the serenity of the highest peak in the east surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Because we chose to spend our day in the clouds, it made for a memorable first Mother’s Day.

Visits in later years provided more adventures as we picnicked in June in snow flurries, watched lightning dance and streak along the mountain top, wore coats to ward off the chill on rainy summer days, hiked, soaked in the sun, saw the mountain socked in by fog, and enjoyed the sound of the wind blowing up through the stunted spruce and pine forest.

The last time we were on the mountain was three years ago. It is time to return.

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Mother’s Day 2017

Remembers all the moms out there including my mom and sisters.

Mother’s Day with Barbara and George W. Bush: Then and Now

Happy Mother’s Day to America’s former First Lady.

Barbara Bush with her first-born son, George W. Bush.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush (#Bush41) with son former President George W. Bush (#Bush43).

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Low Polling Numbers Plague Trump, Congress

Being Republican means walking on egg shells these days as an atmosphere permeates the party that pointing out the obvious is frowned upon. But when national polling numbers continue to show the GOP and its president’s approval ratings in the cellar, there has to be concern and questions about the direction the party is going.

Quinnipiac’s latest poll released Wednesday, compiled before the firing of FBI Director James Comey, continues the bad approval ratings that have been rolling out of D.C. The president’s approval rating is 35 percent, down five points from April 19, with a whopping 58 percent disapproval.

Perhaps one of the starkest revelations was the sharp drop of support with Independents who gave the president a 29 percent approval rating, down 10 points since April 19. That means 63 percent of Independent voters disapprove of this president.

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What’s Blooming in the Yard Today….

What was blooming in the yard today? After two nights with 30-degree overnight temps which required covering tender plants and flowers with plastic, everything not only survived but seemed to thrive in today’s sunshine and temps in the mid-60s. Purple salvia continues to bloom into its second week while the pink and white peonies blossomed under the hothouse-like plastic.

Irises

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Spring Creeps Into Shenandoah National Park

May 2017 … green is creeping up the ridges in Shenandoah National Park. It was a road trip along Skyline Drive to see the shades of green, wildflowers, and even ridges where winter was still clinging in the form of leafless trees….

Route 33 east of Harrisonburg as it approaches Shenandoah National Park.

Swift Run Gap entrance station.

Blackened trees are a reminder of the April 2016 Rocky Mount forest fire that burned thousands of acres in the southern section of Skyline Drive.


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Ox-Eye Vineyards Offers Wine Tastings and Fun in Downtown Staunton

A hidden gem to Staunton is being discovered by visitors as well as locals. On Saturday we joined friends for the Sears Hill Bridge dedication in downtown Staunton and enjoyed lunch at the Clocktower Restaurant before walking to the Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room on Middlebrook Avenue. The day was beautiful so we sat outdoors on the patio and enjoyed a tasting and glasses of award-winning wine from Ox-Eye Vineyards.

 

Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room is located in the Historic Wharf District of downtown Staunton in a 1904 building designed by noted architect T.J. Collins. After sitting vacant for years, it was carefully and tastefully renovated by the Kiers.

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A Look Back: Staunton’s First ‘Bridge Day’

[Over the weekend Staunton celebrated “Bridge Day.” Here’s a look back at “Sears Hill Bridge Day offers festive atmosphere in historic downtown Staunton” held on April 13, 2013.]

Sears Hill Bridge Day in Staunton, Virginia – Noon on April 13, 2013 – Dedication of the refurbished foot bridge over the railroad tracks connecting the Sears Hill neighborhood to the Historic Wharf District of downtown Staunton. It was reminiscent of a Mayberry day with the local Stonewall Brigade Band providing music, balloons, and a turnout of citizens from throughout the region to join in the festive mood. City Council members and other local dignitaries joined in with business owners and others.
The crowd spilled out onto the cobblestone parking area and into the street including ladies dressed in Victorian attire.

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BREAKING: Incumbent Will Morefield Overcomes Challenger, Wins HOD-3 in Mass Meeting

Delegate Will Morefield fought off an eleventh-hour challenge to win the Republican mass meeting for the House of Delegates 3rd District on Saturday.

The meeting, held at Richlands High School in the 9th Congressional District, was a loss for area Trump organizers who had recruited the challenger and turned Trump supporters against one another in the battle that began brewing a few weeks ago. I guess they don’t call it the Fightin’ Ninth for nothing, except I thought it meant Republicans fighting their Democratic opponents, not each other.

The snipes and crossfire on Facebook had even lowered to the point of what degree of support was provided for Trump and whether someone was fully on the Trump Train while making no mention of whose yardstick would be used to measure that support, nor how much was enough.

Long-time Republican leader Jerry Lester wrote an op-ed Friday stating his support of Morefield, and noted the Morefield was the first to win against decades of Democratic public officials but was soon followed by other local offices that flipped to the GOP.

Developing…

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