Memorial Day will be observed this year on Monday, May 26th. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. After World War I, the holiday changed to include Americans who died fighting in any war. The name "Memorial Day" was first used in 1882, but did not become common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by federal law until 1967.
The Armed Forces Memorials sitting proudly on the Post Office lawn on the square in downtown are Stamford’s tribute to the veterans who’ve served in the wars of our country and a memorial to those who did not return.
In 1991, the Desert Storm Support Group conceived the idea of a Gulf War Memorial that would be placed in downtown Stamford to honor those who served in that conflict. Through fund raising efforts and help of veterans and other concerned citizens, the memorial became a reality, and during a Coming Home Celebration, on May 18, 1991, Jesse Morton, president of the support group, presented the memorial to the City of Stamford.
Shortly after that ceremony, Morton and others began fund raising efforts to erect additional memorials to honor those who served and those who died during our country’s wars. Veterans were urged to send in their names to be engraved on the memorials. Family members also submitted names of those who were killed in action. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Monday, June 15, for the forthcoming dedication ceremony which was held on the square on July 4, 1992. Stamford area citizens and veterans accomplished the necessary work to establish five new memorials for the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
This Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those listed on the Armed Forces Memorial who were killed in action. World War I -1Lt Vernon Hart; World War II - Fred Barr, Kenneth Edge, Harold Ekenstam, George Elliott, Wade Fourqurean, James Franks, Jack French, Carl Greenhaw, Tommy Griggs, Gordon Haynes, Jr., Herman Hilscher, James Jones, Joseph Jones, George King, Dayton Masters, Frank Matecha, Jr., Fred McBride, Joseph McKennon, Shappard McLemore, Bill Miller, Garland Monzingo, Linwood Moore, Otto Mueller, Herman Plumlee, Amador Quintanilla, John Reves, F. A. Risley, G. W. Rivers, Earl Russell, Jr., Frank Rye, Glen Smith, Willie Stremmel, Billy Trimmier, Earnest Wadzeck, J. A. White, Horace Weeks, L. A. Wendeborn, and Alvin Young; Korean War - PFC R.V. Hagle, Jr., Harlton Harris, PFC Jesse E. Herpeche, Matt Lusk, Eugene Sanders, Weldon Turner; Vietnam War - Tech 4 Douglas P. McCorkle, Jr.
Most of the World War II dead were buried in the countries where they fell. Families were usually given the option to have their loved ones remains shipped home for reburial at war’s end. The following article, which appeared in the December 12, 1947 issue of the Stamford American, relates the story of how two of the young men listed on the World War II Memorial were brought home to rest in Stamford.
“Two of Stamford’s war dead who lost their lives in Europe over three years ago, were brought home to final resting places this week. Funeral service for Pvt. Carl L. Greenhaw was held Wednesday afternoon and for T-5 Frank J. Matecha on Thursday afternoon. Both bodies arrived by train and were received by Kinney Funeral Home, who directed burial arrangements. Full military honors were accorded both men in graveside rites. Pvt. Greenhaw died October 30, 1944, in France of wounds received the previous day in Holland. Matecha was killed November 16, 1944, in Germany. Both of these men were born near Stamford and had made their home here most of their lives.
Pvt. Greenhaw was born near Avoca on Dec. 6, 1915, and was 28 when he died. On June 14, 1938 he married Iva Mae Rasco who survives him. Also surviving are three children Hulen, LaRue, and Melvin. Greenhaw was employed as a shipping clerk at H. O. Wooten Grocer Co, when he entered the service in February 1944. He trained at Ft. McClellan, Ala. before he sailed on August 15. He reached England in September going from England to France with an infantry outfit.
Matecha was born March 19, 1919 in Tuxedo and was 23 years old when he died. He entered the service Jan. 28, 1941, went to Camp Wolters, Mineral Wells, and on to Ft. Knox, KY. He was on maneuvers in both Louisiana and in the California desert, going later to Camp Polk, La., before sailing for the ETO from Pennsylvania in September 1943. He was at the D Day invasion and fought in all the campaigns from Normandy to Germany. He was thought to have been the first Jones county man to enter the Reich. He was killed near Stahlberg, Germany by shell fragments from German mortar shells which hit nearby. He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Matecha of Tuxedo, and two sisters.”
The Stamford Chamber of Commerce is currently in the process of having the faded lettering on the memorials refurbished. If you are interested in helping with this project, adding a name, or making a donation towards the cost of the project, contact the Chamber at 773-2411.
This Memorial Day 2014, let’s all commit to pause and remember that we owe a huge debt to those who fought and died and to those who are still fighting and dying to maintain our freedom.