The Anniston Star

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October 21, 2014

Insight: A monument's missing men

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Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014 3:00 am | Updated: 3:26 pm, Sun May 25, 2014.

A 1921 memorial dedicated to Calhoun Countians who died in service to their country  during World War I left off the names of 19 soldiers and sailors. On this Memorial Day 2014,  we tell the stories of those long-forgotten men.

On Armistice Day 1921, Calhoun Countians gathered on Quintard Avenue in Anniston to honor the local men who’d given their lives to win the Great War.

After a patriotic program of prayers and a parade, women from the United Daughters of the Confederacy unveiled a bronze plaque affixed to a stone monument in the tree-lined median at the 10th Street intersection. Made by Lee Brass Co., the plaque bore the names of 40 Calhoun County men who died in uniform. The name of a 41st soldier, a man from Ohatchee, was added later.

It remains, however, an incomplete list.

How the soldiers died varied as much as their hometowns. They came from Anniston and Oxford, Piedmont and Wellington, Iron City and Choccolocco, Blue Mountain and Ohatchee. Some died in battle. Others died from sickness. A few died stateside during training.

The tablet on the monument’s south side said it is “erected in honor of the soldiers and sailors from Calhoun County, Alabama, who served in the great war, 1917-1919.” The main plaque, which carries the soldiers’ names, is entitled “Calhoun County’s Honor Roll.”

Files at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, the Alabama State Military Department and the Alabama Department of Archives and History indicate that 19 Calhoun County soldiers who died in the war are not listed on the Quintard Avenue memorial.

All 19 deserve to have their names added to Calhoun County’s honor roll. We urge the city of Anniston to right this wrong at the earliest possible date.

Time’s passage makes it difficult to definitively say why these men weren’t included. Blaming the segregated society of the Jim Crow South tops the list of probabilities for the nine black Calhoun County men who were left off, though that doesn’t explain the omission of the 10 white men. The U.S. Army wasn’t integrated until 1948, and blacks in the U.S. military during World War I often were treated more as laborers than fighting men, their service deemed less worthy than that of whites. Other Southern towns, such as Selma, Natchez, Miss., and Durham, N.C., for instance, erected war monuments that either excluded the names of black soldiers or listed them separately in a sort of macabre after-death segregation.

However, of the 41 names on the Quintard Avenue plaque, one identified soldier — Frank Heath, of Anniston — is listed by the Alabama State Military Department as “colored.”

That’s why we’re not inclined to pass judgment on the city fathers, UDC officers or residents of Calhoun County who oversaw the compilation of the honor roll in 1921. What was done was done.

But the exclusion of these 19 Calhoun County residents, some of whom were re-interred here after the war, some of whom still have family living nearby, can be righted.

These soldiers are part of Calhoun County’s honor roll. For whatever reason, they have been ignored for more than 92 years.

The time to right this wrong is here.

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