By Shawn Stinson
The community honored the memory of “Our Five Boys” and other Pendleton County residents who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The annual Memorial Day ceremony was presented by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9666 at the Richard Homan Memorial Park in Sugar Grove.
Brenna Mitchell provided the keynote address regarding the group collectively known as “Our Five Boys” from the Sugar Grove area. She highlighted several incidents in the lives of this group.
Lt. Paul Smith, who received a Purple Heart from his injuries in an airplane crash, was declared missing and killed in action following an incident in early November 1943 off the coast of New Guinea. He also received the Air Medal with Bronze Oak Cluster.
Mitchell added Smith captured the U.S. Armed Forces of Hawaii heavyweight boxing championship.
Pvt. Roscoe Eckard is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Eckard was killed in action on July 17, 1944, in France. Mitchell said Judy Rader, his sister, recalled Dolly, a dog “that was very special” to Eckard and received “extra special care” following his death.
She also said, “Rader remembered her family receiving a package from the U.S. Army nearly two years following Eckard’s death. The package included his testament and wallet.”
Pvt. Oather Simmons is also buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. He was killed on July 24, 1944, in France after being hit by shrapnel. It is believed Simmons was set to go on furlough but wanted to say goodbye to a friend when he was killed.
Mitchell added Simmons was remembered by his brother, Vernon, as being “very good with a rifle and a very good hunter.”
She mentioned Eckard and Simmons lived within a mile of each other in Sugar Grove and died approximately a week apart and 30 miles from each other in France.
Pvt. Frank Pitsenbarger was killed in action on July 31, 1944, in France. Pitsenbarger served as a medic attached to the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. He was killed when he was hit by an artillery shell fragment when he was attending to wounded soldiers. Like Eckard and Simmons, Pitsenbarger is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Mitchell said Pitsenbarger went to Chicago with Reid Homan as part of a Future Farmers of America trip. The pair were said to have spent “most of the trip on the hotel elevator going up and down.”
Pvt. Albert Leo Mitchell was killed in action on Sept. 26, 1944, in Italy. He is buried in the family cemetery in Dry Run.
She cited a story that Leo Mitchell was said to have purchased a bicycle and did not want his brothers to ride it. He used a chain and lock to keep them from riding the bike. His brother, Olin, was able to pull apart the chain links to free the bike to ride it and would push the links back together to hide his activity.
She ended her speech by hoping the public remembers the five Sugar Grove residents killed during World War II.
“They say we all die twice,” she said. “Once when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time. Let us ensure these boys live on by never forgetting to tell their stories and always remembering to say their names.”
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