“It really leaves everlasting memories,” said Vera Ashburn.
Ashburn’s husband, Lawrence, was one of many local men to be called to service during World War II. Ashburn said she hadn’t thought much about those days until a picture surfaced recently which featured six WWII veterans and two of their wives, one of which is Ashburn.
The picture was taken in front of the flag pole at the post office in Mount Airy more than 70 years ago. All six men were Marines who would soon be deployed to the Pacific theater.
“They all met there on Sunday afternoons,” said Ashburn. She explained that prior to deploying, her husband and the five others had to leave often for training at Camp Legune. One of those Sundays she and one other wife joined their husbands for a photo opportunity.
It was a trying time for the country and families like Ashburn’s. She said every day was a day in which she might get a message from abroad.
“That was a bad time. Let me tell you,” explained Ashburn. “People were getting notices all the time — their loved one was wounded or killed.”
One of the six men pictured in the photograph would never see Mount Airy again. Ashburn said her husband recalled George Briggs’ death years later.
“We called him Dewey,” said Ashburn. “My husband said Dewey was killed on the beach at Iwo Jima.”
Dewey’s family received the notice Ashburn feared during those trying times in the nation’s history, and Ashburn would receive a message of her own.
“Mine (message) did come,” recounted Ashburn. “I got a notice that he (Lawrence) had been wounded.”
However, Ashburn was happy that her notice wasn’t as bad as the ones many other Mount Airy residents had received.
“He was thankfully just wounded,” said Ashburn. “They thought they were going to have to take his leg off, but he was able to keep it. They flew him back to California then to Camp Legune. I used to go there and visit him.”
Ashburn said her husband was forever proud of his service to the country. “He lasted 17 days on the island,” said Ashburn. “That was longer than most.”
Ashburn remembers well the emotions of those times, saying that there was an “uneasy feeling all the time.”
Her story, and stories such as “Dewey” Briggs’ are all too common for that chapter of America’s history. They are stories of sacrifice, and those sacrifices are being honored today with various Veterans Day ceremonies and events.
There are nearly 5,000 veterans in Surry County, according to Surry County Veterans Services director Mike Scott.
Today, in conjunction with local veterans groups, Scott has a celebration planned to honor the sacrifices of Surry County’s veterans.
A parade will commence around 11 a.m. in Mount Airy. Veterans of Foreign Wars commander David Raborn is urging all VFW members to join him in the parade. He said those interested should be at Veterans Memorial Park at 10 a.m.
Following the parade there will be a ceremony at the memorial near the Mount Airy municipal building. Live entertainment and food will be served at Veterans Memorial Park at noon.
Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698. Bill can be reached at 415-4699.