Let the bugles play and the fireworks commence.
This next Wednesday, July 3, at 6 p.m. on the grounds of the DeSoto County Museum, 111 E. Commerce St. in Hernando, the Time Traveler and staff of fellow time travelers and historians will play host to some of our nation’s finest heroes.
With our aging World War II veterans, some who are reaching the age of 95 and 100 years, passing away at rapid rates each day across America, we at the DeSoto County Museum wanted to say “thank you” for their hard-fought sacrifices to ensure our liberty and freedom.
The evening will begin with feasting on hot dogs and ice cream before touring some of the latest exhibits chronicling the service of young GI’s, Marines, Navy seamen, U.S. Army Air Force cadets and other servicemen and women who risked life and limb to save the civilized world nearly three-quarters of a century ago.
One of the exhibits in the museum tells the story of Morris Casey of Walls, who was assigned to the 78th Infantry Division, or Lightning Division, part of the 3rd Battalion of the 310 Infantry Regiment.
During his time in the 78th, as a forward observer for the 105mm Howitzers, Sgt. Casey saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, the Hurtgen Forest and the Sigefried Line. During the capturing of the Remagen Bridge, the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Harry Lutz personally requested Sgt. Casey to lead the artillery barrage. The bridge was captured on March 7 and allowed Allied troops, supplies and armament to advance deep into Germany’s interior. After the bridge was taken, Sgt. Casey was wounded when a German shell struck the trees directly above his foxhole.
The Purple Heart he received, his other medals, commendations and war-time photos are all on display at the DeSoto Museum.
But the most poignant part of Sgt. Casey’s war-time experience was the liberation of the German concentration camps where more than six million Jews and 1.5 million Jewish and gypsy children perished during the Holocaust.
With tears in his eyes and a trembling voice, the late Sgt. Casey often told the story of how he and other American GI’s were stunned and shocked at the suffering and death of the Jewish people at the hands of the brutal Nazi regime.
In the recently-unveiled Unknown Child Exhibit, Casey’s photograph with DeSoto County school children as he shared his experiences liberating the camps, is included along with the haunting faces of precious children whose lives were lost during the Holocaust.
Vintage uniforms, weapons and other World War II memorabilia are also on display.
The occasion of our nation’s celebration of Independence Day is a perfect time to reflect upon the heroism of these service men and women.
After enjoying ice cream, hot dogs and complimentary guided tours of the museum and new exhibits, a short procession from the museum grounds will take place to Hernando Baptist Church across the street where these heroes will be welcomed on stage to share their experiences.
Other service men and women from many other wars and conflicts will also be honored, along with R.G. and Diane Moore, who have championed the cause of honoring our veterans as a personal mission for the past decade.
We owe these men and women who defended our freedom and helped save the world from tyranny and oppression, a tremendous debt. Before we lose any more of these valiant heroes to time and the ages, let us pay tribute to them by coming out next Wednesday night to the DeSoto County Museum and then hearing their stories one more time, from their own lips, as to how they brought the entire world back from the brink of darkness.
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.