This past Saturday afternoon, November 17, about 100 members of our community gathered in the warm fall Oklahoma sunshine to dedicate the new Veterans' Park on the north edge of town, at the highway intersection.

Led by the Chamber of Commerce, and involving other organizations, our town of Apache chose to observe the Oklahoma Centennial by building a new park in honor of our veterans. The county brought in fill dirt to create a circle perhaps 40 feet in diameter at the level of the highway. A contractor poured concrete, then memorial bricks were laid to form the surface, each containing the name of a veteran with dates of service. A stone memorial was placed in the center, inscribed with the names of 30 sons of our town, and the surrounding countryside, who either died in service, or were POWs. The population of Apache is less than 2000.

The first name is that of CPL Roy L. Rinker, U.S. Army, World War 1, Died of Wounds Oct. 5, 1918. The most recent death inscribed is that of CPL Joshua J. Ware, U.S. Marine Corps, War on Terrorism, Killed in Action Nov. 16, 2005. (I posted about his funeral here.) Also on the stone, LT Pascal C. Poolaw, Sr., U.S. Army, Vietnam War, Killed in Action Nov. 7, 1967. He remains the most decorated Native American to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Among the POWs, SSG Bruce W. Klinekole, U.S. Army, World War II, POW Apr 9, 1942 to Sep 1, 1945. He survived the Bataan Death March and was liberated from a Japanese prison camp in Manchuria. A complete list of names is below the fold.

A week or two before the dedication volunteers spent most of a Saturday laying sod, planting bushes and trees, erecting two flagpoles, and installing lights.

We gathered on the 17th as an Army brass quintet from Ft. Sill played. A welcome was given, a prayer offered, the National Anthem sung, guests introduced, participating organizations recognized, and the history of the project related. Then Lanny Asepermy, a member of the Comanche Indian Veterans' Association and retired Army Sergeant Major, read the names of those on the monument. As he does whenever he speaks on behalf of veterans, Lanny said: "Only two defining forces have offered to die for you--one is Jesus Christ for your soul. The other is the American soldier for your freedom." A gun salute was fired, and taps played. Two state legislators and a National Guard Brigadier General spoke briefly. Then we adjourned to the Community Center for refreshments.

As I sat in the crowd, two voices ran through my mind. I heard Merle sing in his voice at once common and profound:

We don't our burn draft cards down on Main Street
'Cause we like living right and being free

I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down by the court house
And white lightning's still the biggest thrill of all

And I heard words from another November day, at another dedication; words delivered in a high-pitched voice that carried the sound of Kentucky in it, spoken on a ridge in south-central Pennslvania decades before I was born.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

May God grant us strength so to resolve in our generation.

THE DEAD: Roy L. Rinker, James W. Amspacher, Rubin E. Mason, Morris A. Carter, Dewey Reiss, George R. Anderson, John E. Sexton, Harry W. Mithlo, Chester B. Holcomb, Melvin Myers, Joseph B. Stone, Lee R. Bentley, Wendell D. Moran, Charles R. King, Ralph L. Burkhead, Winfard B. Anderson, Charles L. Tarver, Austin L. Klinekole, Claude E. Smith, James McClure, Pascal C. Poolaw Sr., Mack W. Williams, Joshua J. Ware, Ned Shafer, Gayle W. Kizer, Silas W. Boyiddle. THE POWs: Bruce W. Klinekole, Cloyde I. Gooday, Jack LaGrange Jr., John O. Holcomb.