Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Battle of Belleau Wood ~ Commemorative Pens

The Battle of Belleau Wood occurred 100 years ago in June 1918 during World War I. The battlefield sits about five miles west of the town of Ch√Ęteau-Thierry, barely fifty miles northeast of Paris, France. The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery lies below the hill containing Belleau Wood where many American Marines lost their lives during the battle.

This past November, John Sword visited Belleau Wood, where he collected several small oak tree branches from the wooded area above the memorial. From those branches, commemorative pens were made in honor of the valiant Marines who fought there. Each pen was turned and assembled by Col. Stephen H. Young, USA (Ret). The thirteen living recipients of the Medal of Honor recently received a pen as a thank you for their service. 

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery Visit ~ November 7, 2018
On Wednesday, November 7, 2018 we took a train across the border from San Sabastian to Hendaye, France. We then traveled on the high-speed train to Paris. Although we were both anxious to get home we had one last stop to make before our flight out on Friday. On Thursday we scheduled a car and driver to take us to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery is about an hour from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

The 42.5-acre Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France sits at the foot of Belleau Wood. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,289 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. The memorial chapel sits on a hillside, decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia.

Inscribed on its interior wall are 1,060 names of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. In 1940 during World War II the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery chapel was damaged due to heavy fighting in the vicinity. All damage was repaired except for one shell hole in the chapel, left as a reminder of what took place. Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery and contains many vestiges of World War I. A monument at the flagpole commemorates the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.

The remains of the hunting lodge lie in the northwest corner of the wood, on a hillside behind the cemetery chapel. During the fighting, the "pavilion" served as a German battalion headquarters until first overrun by the 43rd Company, USMC. From the top of the structure, the Marines could see well behind the German lines.

Wreaths Across America ~ Idaho State Veterans Cemetery

On a clear and cold December morning in Boise, Idaho, Sally Jackson and friends gather at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to pay respect to her husband Captain Arthur J. Jackson, a World War II, United States Marine Corps, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

Pictured above from left to right: James Earp; Tamara Earp; Sally Jackson; John Sword.

Sally's dedication and memory of her husband Art inspired artist, John Sword, to create the Medal of Honor Urns that symbolize the strength and courage of the recipients. Each urn is individually handcrafted from wood and  topped by a bronze leaf cast from an actual leaf from Arlington Cemetery. In addition, a special compartment in the urns contains earth from   battlefields from around the world where US soldiers fought and died. Sally then introduced this urn to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

James Earp, the bureau chief of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, and his wife Tamara first met the Jackson's years ago during their visit to the Veterans Cemetery.  When John created the very first Veterans Ceremonial Urn covers for use during Veteran and spouse committal services, James became good friends with John and his wife Heidi.  James shared the positive experiences with other State Veterans Cemetery directors and the VA's Pacific District Director who requested this program to be implemented at other National Veterans Cemeteries. John has provided over fifty of these urns in eleven states.

Tamara volunteers as the Wreaths Across America location coordinator for The Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. Each year she provides a special Flag that is placed in the wreath to recognize the valor, heroism, and selfless sacrifice for the three Idaho Medal of Honor Recipients, Major Ed Freeman; Colonel Bernard Fisher; and Captain Arthur Jackson laid to rest in the upper section of the Veterans cemetery.

As the group was winding down, a magnificent bird flying in the distance slowly approached.  Once within view it was clearly the  Bald Eagle, a symbol of our Nation's strength and freedom.  This was an impressive conclusion as this gathering of friends completed their visit to honor their loved ones, Veterans and their families.