|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Price was paid for our freedom” was originally published in the June 2, 1988 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
As most of you know, Memorial Day has been set aside by our Congress to honor and pay tribute to the many, many thousands who gave their lives in the service of our country.
I have often wondered if it was possible to think back and look through time and check the records for the past 200 or so years and pick out the one individual who gave more toward preserving our freedom than anyone else. Then, by the same token, I have wondered who might have given just as much and never been remembered at all. This, to me, is the most heartbreaking.
Most often if we picked out the best-known, it would be some great general of an outstanding series of battles or the great commander of some great invasion. This is good and true. They deserve all the credit that is given them, but there were thousands who never received more than a telegram from the Department of War telling someone of their passing. And sometimes it was many years before this word was forthcoming.
Few of you given any thought to the little guy, or the least-known, who sleeps somewhere in one of the many national cemeteries throughout the world, or who was reported missing in action and was never heard from again. Many, many times these individuals were the ones who had less to fight for – material things, that is – than most anyone else.
I remember quite well the circumstances of the second World War. I can recall that dreadful Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, when President Roosevelt declared war on the Japanese empire. I was not old enough for the draft, but I remember many young men dropping out of school, many in their senior year, to go forth and do battle with the enemy. I remember this one young man who didn’t have a family. He had always lived with distant relatives so that he would be near a school that he could attend. He dropped out of his senior year and enlisted in the Army Air Force as a tail gunner on a B-25 bomber.
During the first mission that he made over Nazi Germany, the bomber that he was in was shot down, never to be heard from again. The only word that was ever received was “missing in action.”
Another member of the same high school class was flying over Burma. The C-47 disappeared, never to be heard from again. Ten years later, the U.S. government finally declared him to be dead. During the 10 years, word came to the family that he had been seen somewhere in Burma in a POW camp. But it was never confirmed.
Four other members of the same class trained for just a few weeks. Their first action was the Normandy invasion. As they stepped from the landing crafts on the edge of the dry land, they were killed. Two more were killed when the ship that they were serving on was hit by a German U-boat.
I do not mean to insinuate that the above-mentioned individuals gave any more than the other thousands who paid the supreme price with their lives. But there were so many who maybe didn’t seem to get the chance to prove themselves; maybe a little more time, a little more experience, would have made all the difference.
Throughout the years and during all the wars, we have had the forgotten ones. This is the way that it has always been. I don’t think we as Americans intend to omit anyone from the rolls of honor. But as time goes on, the thoughts of those who fell almost unnoticed tend to become further and further in the spans of time.
I know, too, that we cannot dwell on the past all the time. We have to face the future and the world as a whole. We cannot hide within our past and submerge ourselves with pity.
We have got to remember that our freedom has not been given to us free. It has been paid for with a price. And most times it was paid for by the ones who could afford to pay for it with the least.
So the next time that you feel like that all has gone wrong and you wish that you could go to the ends of the earth, stop and remember that only here, in this America, my America, all things are possible.
Regardless how much we think that we have got it bad, we are always ahead of the game, because there were those who didn’t get the chance or the time to think about it. Their date with destiny was at hand, and they were not late for their appointment.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in 1961 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)