Alabama’s history of serving country a proud one

Published 3:15 pm Sunday, November 8, 2009

Those who have sacrificed so much for their country should never have to fight to be remembered.

That was the message from the Veterans’ Day ceremony and tribute in Columbiana Sunday.

“Since 1900, the state of Alabama has enlisted more military volunteers per capita than any other state in the Union. During the 20th century, more than 11,000 Alabamians lost their lives at war,” said Guest Speaker Della Fancher, founder of the Alabama Veterans Memorial Park.

About 50 residents, many of them veterans themselves or with family serving currently in the U.S. Armed Forces, gathered on the lawn of the Shelby County Courthouse and enjoyed a pleasant, sunny fall afternoon while remembering those who have served.

“They came from small towns and bustling cities. From well-known places like Mobile, Birmingham and Montgomery and from places the rest of the world had not heard of, like Columbiana, Sylacauga and Fourmile,” Fancher said. “One month they were plowing a field or stocking the shelves at the local A&P and a month or two later they were walking point with a Browning automatic or an M-16 in unfamiliar territory.”

Alabamians have a proud history of giving of their time, their energies, their labor and their lives to support their country, she said.

Statistics tell part of that story, Fancher said.

Of the 74,000 draftees from Alabama in World War I, 2,401 were killed in action and another 3,861 lost their lives to wounds and disease.

One in 10 Alabamians — more than 300,000 — served in World War II. More than 4,000 of them died.

Of more than 36,000 military personnel lost during the Korean War, 671 were from Alabama.

58,000 Americans died in Vietnam. 1,207 were from Alabama. Average age of U.S. solders in the Vietnam War was 19.

12 Alabamians lost their lives serving their country in the Gulf War.

“America’s experience in Vietnam made the nation very cautious about military involvement as a foreign policy strategy in the latter part of the 20th century,” Fancher said.

When the events leading up to the Gulf War unfolded, the U.S. was still living under the shadow of Vietnam, she said.

“President George H. Bush addressed those concerns when, declaring that the U.S. could fight to liberate Kuwait, he proclaimed, ‘Our troops will have the best possible support in the entire world, and they will not be asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back.’ ”

At the end of Sunday’s ceremony, those attending were asked to speak the names of friends and loved ones who have served or are serving the country in the military. Almost everyone named someone whose service they want remembered.

Shelby County Commissioner Corley Ellis provided the welcome and invocation on Sunday. Stacy Walkup of the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce introduced the speaker and Paula Head of Columbiana, who sang the national anthem and “How Great Thou Art.”

The flag flying at the courthouse lawn was lowered to half staff by Scouts from Boy Scout Troop No. 360. Cub Scouts from Pack 560 handed out American flags to those in attendance.