My turn

Veterans carry on and do their part until they depart

2011-12-11T00:00:00Z Veterans carry on and do their part until they departBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
December 11, 2011 12:00 am  • 

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people will through their righteous might win through to absolute victory..."

~ President Franklin Roosevelt, Address to Congress, Dec. 8, 1941

Albert Henry Woolson was born Feb. 11, 1847 and led a good life. He enlisted in the Union army in 1864 as a drummer boy in Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment.

While Woolson never saw action during the war, he had one claim to fame when he died Aug. 2, 1956 at 109. He outlived 2,675,000 Civil War veterans on the Union side.

The Toledo Blade headline read "Last Union Veteran of Civil War Dies."

It was decided in 1949 that the Grand Army of the Republic would continue, technically, until the last veteran died. When Woolson passed, as Robert Price noted that day, the obituary notice for the GAR had been written as well.

Price noted that "The GAR has long since become the symbol of the Union veteran; it is proper that simultaneous taps should sound for them." The GAR was born April 6, 1866 and lived to the ripe age of 90.

This is relevant today as we conclude the last official Pearl Harbor Survivor ceremonies in towns like Highland and many more across the region, state and nation. Dec. 7, 2011 marked the official obituary of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Today, only 40 survivors of that fateful day remain across the state, with a few thousand still surviving nationwide.

These veterans have a hard time getting around, speaking and performing at ceremonies. The attack that morning in 1941 killed 2,390 Americans, many never having made it out of the barracks.

Today, we look at the pictures of the flames and destruction and cannot fully grasp the enormity of the event.

Yet no one who was there can forget the images of friends drowning or burning to death. While the national organization will dissolve, the veterans and their families will continue to honor those who served and those who survived.

They will, hopefully, continue to tell the story until the last survivor is gone. Then, like Woolson, they will be laid to rest with full military honors.

Like his father before him, Willard Woolson, who died at Shiloh in 1862, Albert Woolson carried the banner to the end. Veterans carried on the tradition of the men and women of our armed services with honor. They fought back, though at a severe disadvantage.

The WWII generation is not buried - far from it. True, their numbers dwindle with time, but the life of Woolson proves one thing, the resilience of people who have seen so much and continue on. The old drummer boy, as he was known, was scared to death the first time he fired a cannon. Yet, he continued to shovel his walkway even after he celebrated his 106th birthday.

Veterans of Pearl Harbor and any number of other WWII battles amaze us still. They climb ladders to clean their gutters. They mow their grass, not because they can't afford a landscaper, but because this is what they have always done - worked hard and did their part.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at


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