Burlington unveils monument to fallen soldiers

Published 11:07 pm Saturday, October 3, 2009

BURLINGTON — At the bottom of the black slab of granite are the words of John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Above that scripture are four names: Benjamin L. Butcher, Gregory J. Maynard, Roger L. Smith and Theodore U. Church — Burlington residents who through the years have given their life not only for friends but for fellow Americans they never knew and a freedom many know today because of their selflessness.

Residents of Burlington gathered Saturday evening at the Burlington Commons to officially unveil a monument to its fallen soldiers. Chris Saunders, who spearheaded the monument project, said the idea for the memorial began a little more than two years ago after the death of Burlington native Theodore “Tuc” Church, who was killed May 28, 2007 in Iraq. It is meant to honor those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom and to perhaps help the families who have suffered these losses to heal.

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“It is,” Saunders said, “a small token of our appreciation for the sacrifices the families have given.”

In his invocation, Dr. Clifford Marquardt, chaplain of the V.A. Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., prayed for those veterans around the world who are serving today and are far away from home. “We commit them to you,” he prayed. “Be a shield for them in harm’s way.”

Ronald E. Rosser and Hershel “Woody” Williams both talked about what it is to be far from home and under enemy fire. Both are U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Williams, a Fairmont, W.Va., native who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw the flag raised at Iwo Jima, used flame throwers to help defeat the Japanese and allow U.S Forces to capture the island. Williams insisted that then and even today, the American soldier does not go into battle for selfish gain but to advance the cause of freedom around the world, extending it often to those who have never tasted its sweetness.

“Americans are liberators, not conquerors,” Williams told the assembly.

Saunders introduced Rosser, a native of Roseville, Ohio, as a man who first did his duty during World War II but then re-enlisted in the U.S. Army after his younger brother was killed in Korea.

During combat, Rosser was estimated to have killed nearly 50 communist soldiers in a single day of fighting, armed with hand grenades and a few guns, some of which he pulled off fallen fellow soldiers.

“I was damn glad to do it,” Rosser said. “For all the people I took out, several American soldiers lived. All wars are vicious; Korea was no different.”

Rosser noted in his remarks that patriotism is alive and well in small communities such as Burlington which now has a monument of its own to honor fallen veterans.

“It seems like all the vets come from there and all the casualties come from there,” he said.

John Hess, a friend of Church’s, read a letter from members of his Army Cavalry regiment in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Church was described in the letter as having “embodied the cavalryman spirit.”

“As a soldier he commanded respect through his actions, not his rhetoric,” the letter said.

Church’s two children, Maryn and Dorian, unveiled the monument and members of the Gregory Maynard and Roger Smith families placed a wreath beside it.

Saunders said he hopes to enlarge the memorial by selling engraved bricks to encircle the monument.