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“The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.”
– Theodore O’Hara’s poem Bivouac of the Dead was composed after the Mexican War to honor the Kentuckians who lost their lives in that conflict.
In 1847, the bodies of 28 Kentuckians were recovered from their battlefield graves and brought home for reburial. Later in the same year another burial ceremony was conducted as 14 more soldiers were brought back to Kentucky.
Today these 42 Kentuckians who fought and sacrificed their lives in the war with Mexico are interred in the Frankfort Cemetery.
At the age of 15, Owen countian John W. Foster enlisted to fight in the Mexican War. He was the son of Tinsley Foster, one of the early pioneer settlers of the county.
John was born in 1832 and was reared and educated in Owen County. He was a tanner by trade. After the war with Mexico, he returned home where he continued to work in his tanning business.
When the Civil War began, John enlisted once again. He was captured at Winchester, taken to Camp Chase, Ohio, and afterward to Johnson Island military prison where he was released in a prisoner exchange.
John returned to Owen County and not only continued his work tanning hides but he also became a preacher and concentrated his efforts on saving souls.
The first stanza of Bivouac of the Dead is inscribed not only on a marker in the Frankfort Cemetery, but is on display in many of the cemeteries throughout the nation including the Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Va. It has been recited at military funerals conducted after many of the wars in which Americans fought including the Civil War, WWI and WWII.
Each war in which the United States participated beckoned men and women from Owen County whose patriotism was an inspiration to all.
As soldiers marched to the music of freedom’s beat, families who were left at home prayed and awaited letters penned by war weary fathers, daughters and sons.
News of causalities would proceed dreaded letters and telegrams that announced the death of a loved one.
During the Civil War, it might take months for a family to receive a letter from a commanding officer offering condolences on the death of a soldier.
For many soldiers, a final resting place was hastily dug on a blood-drenched battlefield.
Others were returned home where grieving families gathered around a flag-draped casket.
Owen County communities rejoiced together when a soldier survived a war and came home, and they mourned along with the families of those who did not.
During WWI, over 200 Owen County men served.
Ralph Holbrook was the first to lose his life, and the list grew: Obie Roland, Karl Ingram, Hugh Bond and William Littrell.
First Lt. Thomas E. Witt was born in New Liberty and during WWII, he brought a damaged plane safely to the ground. He was the first Owen County casualty in that war when he collided with another plane during a sandstorm. Others who sacrificed their lives included George Bond, Eugene Dunavent, Frank Tate and James V. Wainscott.
Women served in WWII as nurses and some were captured by the enemy and imprisoned. Several Owen County women who joined included Louise Bainbridge, Sarah Greene, Mildred Redding and Martha Wilson.
Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Boone of Pond Branch Road had four sons who served in WWII and the five sons of Mr. and Mrs. Marksberry of Greenup were in the war together.
Several Owen countians served with distinction and were awarded medals for bravery.
O.D. Hawkins joined and worked his way up through the ranks to a colonel. He spent two years as the only American with Chinese troops in the jungles of southwest China. He received his gold bars in 1942 and they were presented to his son, David, in a special ceremony in 1969.
Col. Perry Minor Lusby from Squiresville was the first volunteer from Owen County in WWII.
During his career of 24 years, Col. Perry flew every fighter the Air Force had to offer. He was awarded more than 20 medals, and though today Col. Lusby resides with his wife in California, he makes a yearly trip back to Owen County to visit.
During the Korean War, Owen County lost Carl D. Grimes, and Owen County boys who lost their lives in the Vietnam War included Bobby Osborne, Jeffrey Goodrich, William Juett, John Grimes, and Billy Parker.
Jarl Lee Harris, Bud Dunavent, Hugh Duvall and June Pryor are Owen County Historical Society members who also served in WWII.
Our president, Larry Dale Perry, and vice-president, Jim Acton are war veterans. Many other members have served or have a family member who has served or is currently serving our country.
On Veterans Day, Owen County organizations and schools will honor our service men and women in various ways. The schools will present programs and a lunch, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the historical society will offer refreshments and tours. The library will present a film at 3 p.m. on nurse POWS during WWII.
Take the opportunity to join in these celebrations to thank our service men and women of Owen County who daily put their lives on the line to preserve American freedoms.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about our own Owen County grave digger Bobby Gibson.
In the article I included information about one of the biggest funerals in the county. This was the funeral of John Serfy Redding, not his father B.W. John was well-loved in the county and it was he who drowned in Perry Park Lake.
I appreciate all you native Owen countians who certainly know more about the county history than I and who assist me in correcting my mistakes.
I want to present Owen County history accurately and that is made possible with your help.
The Owen County Historical Society annual Thanksgiving dinner for members and their families and friends will be at 5:30 p.m, Nov. 14, at the IOOF hall. Note the earlier time and make plans on bringing a covered dish. A special Thanksgiving program will be offered by Brother Matt Merrill, pastor of First United Methodist Church.