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History in the Hills: They shall not grow old

A few weeks ago, my wife and I watched a fascinating documentary entitled “They Shall Not Grow Old.”

This documentary, directed by Peter Jackson, used more than 600 hours of World War I veteran interviews and more than 1,000 hours of film from the Imperial War Museum in London to tell the stories of British soldiers fighting in World War I.

The most fascinating part about the whole program is that Jackson’s studio colorized and sharpened the 100-year-old film, which gives the viewer a totally new perspective and appreciation of what fighting was like during the Great War. It was terrible what the soldiers endured, and the color images make it come to life in a way black-and-white film lacks.

The title is appropriate, coming from a poem written in 1914 by Laurence Binyon entitled “For the Fallen.” It’s worth the read. We certainly owe much to those who went off to fight for our county, and we especially honor those who gave, in Lincoln’s words, “The Last Full Measure.”

Named for Revolutionary War veteran Baron Von Steuben, a Prussian soldier who helped the American cause for independence, Steubenville has sent troops to aid in all American conflicts since the War of 1812.

Col. Tappan led a company of troops from Steubenville to meet British and Indian forces engaged near Sandusky. During the Mexican War in 1846, the Steubenville Greys marched south, and many Steubenville sons fought with distinction during the Civil War. During World War I, 1,400 men from Steubenville fought in the conflict. Among these, Capt. Francis McCook, a Steubenville native, was wounded in September 1918, and later passed on while encouraging his men during a barrage by enemy shot and shell.

McCook is buried in France. Other World War I soldiers killed from Steubenville include Cpl. Howard Preble and Pvt. Sylvester Berney, who both lost their lives in France in September and October 1918, respectively.

In July 1921, the remains of both men, along with another Jefferson County veteran, were returned to the city to a hero’s welcome.

During World War II in Steubenville and Jefferson County, more than 12,000 soldiers went to war, many of whom never returned. One of the first was Julius Young, a seaman first class, who was killed in action in the Pacific in 1942. Sgt. Thomas Moxley Jr. was killed when his glider collided with another over New Mexico in 1942. Jerome Edwards, a Tuskegee Airman, paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country in May 1943 when his plane malfunctioned stateside.

On April 30, 1944, an honor roll was erected in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse on Market Street that listed the soldiers from the county who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. That structure is no longer standing, being removed due to deterioration, but a mural depicting it is located on Market Street. It was completed in 1995.

In Hancock County, 4,356 soldiers joined the service in World War II, including 82 women. From Weirton Steel alone, not bound by county or state lines, more than 5,000 employees went to war, and 115 never returned. To honor their legacy, the Weirton Steel Honor Roll was erected on the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in 1944. It was removed in 1959, and a new brick edifice was built in 1990 near the former site of the Weirton Steel General Office. The eagle which adorned the original structure can be seen today in the Weirton Museum. Also, on Veterans Day 1959 another beautiful war memorial was dedicated in front of the Millsop Community Center amid huge crowds.

There are many other memorials dedicated to the fallen in our area. One of my favorites is the large marble memorial in Union Cemetery dedicated May 30, 1869, to the soldiers and sailors of Jefferson County who fought in the Civil War. But erecting a monument will never be enough to honor those who paid the supreme sacrifice. This article is a small attempt in describing our region’s enormous contribution in lives to protecting our freedoms over our nation’s history. We must also remember the many brave soldiers who gave their lives fighting in Korea, Vietnam and our more recent conflicts. The cost of freedom is heavy.

Every day, not just on Memorial Day, we should, amid the sunny weather, family picnics and barbeques, remember the fallen who gave it all and to those who never came home. Binyon wrote, “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

(Zuros is director of Historic Fort Steuben and the Steubenville Visitor Center.)

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