Sunday, November 13, 2016

Remembering, honoring our history

Top, center, below, the Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard.

Rolla, Missouri, being a city that hosts the state's technological university, keeps its eyes on the future, rather than the past.

History is not so important to most Rolla folks, who are looking ahead, doing cutting-edge research, preparing for the world of tomorrow.

We're not preservationists here. Old houses have been razed for new business buildings. Old business buildings have been razed for new university buildings or parking lots.

Such is life here.

There are some individuals, though, who work on remembering and celebrating history. A few years ago I covered for the newspaper a well-rooted Phelps County family's dedication of a new gravestone for one of their ancestors who had settled and died here; he was a Revolutionary War veteran. Couple of summers ago, I covered a memorial service for some Confederate sympathizers who had been massacred by Union militia shortly after the War for Southern Independence (War of Northern Aggression). A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans set that memorial service up.

And Sons of the American Revolution came from throughout Missouri Saturday, Nov. 12, to help their Ozark Patriots chapter dedicate a monument to the war for independence, the American Revoluation, at the Rolla Veterans Memorial Park with prayers, a wreath and musket fire. I covered that for the paper, too.

The park holds monuments to all the wars fought by the United States, but the Revolutionary War monument is unique among all others, said P. Darrell Ownby, president of the local chapter.

"The dedication of this monument the day after Veterans Day is significant since all of the other monuments in this park represent continuing efforts to preserve and retain the liberty and freedom from tyranny that were won in this founding conflict from which our great nation was born and that we honor today," Ownby said in his dedication comments, emphasizing the word "continuing."

All the monuments, though, are important, Ownby said, for they "provide a touchstone for us, and also for the rising generation, and for future generations yet unborn."

Studying history and honoring the people who lived it are important roles for everyone to perform and to make sure are continued, Ownby said.

"Remembering the sacrifices of our Founding Fathers and Patriots is the critical task of each generation to maintain our liberty and the ideals of the Revolution," Ownby said. "The opportunities that we provide for our youth to educate themselves and internalize these founding principles are key to their understanding and remembering."

The local Ozark Patriots chapter was helped by national and state officers who attended. They were Russell Devenney, registrar general for the National Society of SAR and a winner of the National Minuteman Award; John Wayne Merrill, first vice president of the Missouri Society; James E. Osbourn, second vice president of the Missouri Society, and Bill Grote, assistant commander of the Missouri Society Color Guard.

Also helping with the dedication was Becky Anne Osbourn, of the Louisiana Purchase chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The ceremony included color guard with a musket firing of three rounds.

Francis Chandler Furman, secretary of the Ozark Patriot chapter, led the pledge of allegiance.

Columbus Craft, chaplain of the Ozarks Patriot chapter, gave the invocation: "Almighty God, we give thee our humble praise for the gift of the United States of America, for the vision of our patriot ancestors, and for thy continued preservation. Guide and direct the leaders of our nation that we may have peace at home and show forth thy glory among the nations of the world. Give us a sense of all thy mercies that we may declare thy loving kindness from generation to generation. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."

Milan Paddock, historian of the local chapter, led the SAR pledge.

Ownby recognized the visitors and thanked the contributors: the Noah Coleman chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Missouri State Society of the SAR and James and Becky Anne Osbourn.

Ownby also offered the prayer of dedication: "O God, the Eternal Father, we remember before thee today, with grateful and humble hearts, the men and women of our embryonic country who risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, that freedom, liberty and independence be firmly established in our beloved land.

"We are grateful, Heavenly Father, for the cooperation of the individual states and Thy Divine Providence guiding and protecting the outcome of their deliberations and battles.

"We thank thee for the technology that allows us to find digitized documents to trace our lineage to these patriots.

"We dedicate this monument in remembrance and for the pleasure and inspiration of all those who come to see it.

"We thank thee for the faith that we have inherited from our patriots.

"Help us, O God, to sacrifice our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to further the great work that you began in our blessed country, we pray, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

James and Becky Anne Osbourn laid a wreath on the monument.

William Silleck, treasurer of the local chapter, led the recitation of the SAR recessional: "Until we meet again, let us remember our obligations to our forefathers, who gave us our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, an independent Supreme Court and a nation of free men."

Craft closed the ceremony with the benediction: "Heavenly Father, grant us thy mercies as we part. In the coming days, help us to reaffirm our roles as citizens of the United States. keep before us the privations and sacrifices of our ancestors, who freely gave themselves in the cause of liberty and democracy. Endue us with their resolve. Strengthen us as we pledge ourselves to the preservation of the freedoms bestowed by thy hand. Amen."

That service, for me anyway, magnified the distance our country has traveled from its original Founders' values.

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