A week spent strolling down memory lane

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This past week brought back a lot of memories, both happy and bittersweet. Thursday morning, I visited what used to be my high school gymnasium, now the gym of the Butler County Community and Education Center.

The giant growling tiger head I helped my fellow art students paint on those walls is still there. His orange and black coat is a little chipped and faded, but the old boy is still lookin' good after 30-odd years (you taught us well, Priscilla Davis).

Instead of boisterous high school kids in gym clothes, I saw 170 preschoolers in cute paper soldier hats, third graders in their school uniforms and adult students, including some in their eighties. They were all waving their flags with gusto as part of the center's early Veterans' Day celebration.

Those little children, and one teacher, saw their veteran moms and dads sharing their stories of their military experiences. Pride and emotion showed in those faces as they told their stories.

I was reminded of my father's stories of serving as a military policeman at a German POW camp in Crossville,

Tenn. From dragging an AWOL soldier out from under a house (ironically, the errant young man was the son of WW I hero Alvin York) to tearing out an article in a magazine for one of his prisoners (&#8220This fella told me it was a picture of his hometown, and he really wanted it. So I gave it to him. Guess he couldn't help but be homesick”), his memories were strong.  Daddy treasured the old wooden night stick he'd brought back, and a photograph that showed him standing tall (well, as tall as you can at 5 feet, 7 inches) and crisp in his uniform.

&#8220I can see why you married him now,” some wit quipped when spotting the photo at Daddy's 75th birthday party.

The &#8220you” referred, of course, to my mom, the pretty nurse at a Crossville hospital whose blue eyes, pompadour of dark hair and coquettish smile captured G.I. Joe's young heart.

Without WW II, I wouldn't exist.  So I have to say I have special gratitude to the men and women who served in that so-called &#8220last good war.”

Saturday morning the weather couldn't make up its mind. Rain? Sunshine?

But it settled on gusting winds, which were a small hardship compared to what many of our soldiers and guardsmen have faced over the years.

Watching some of the veterans at the celebration in the park, I saw tears wiped away, proud salutes and faces both young and old recalling some of the toughest and most memorable days of their lives.

Rod Frazer apologized for taking more than the few minutes allotted him, but he was obviously passionate about the topic of local guardsmen (his father Will among them) and the sacrifices they made and continue to make.

He is also passionate about his family and their stories, which are shared in the two-part book, &#8220Annie Laurie's PeopleŠ” authored and edited by his late brother, William Frazer and completed by Rod.

The books pay tribute to five men who served their country, and the women who held the family together through thick and thin.

There is even a CD included with the book set of the Civil War tune, &#8220Annie Laurie.” The musical name is the one Frazer's great-grandfather gave his little girl when he returned from a Union POW Camp, &#8220the first Annie Laurie in the family.”

It's true we need to appreciate and remember those who came before us, those who raised us, nurtured us, tried their best to teach us values and morals and to give us both roots and wings.

To those who touched my life and fought for my freedom: thanks for the memories.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.