WWII vet honored

Steve Chapman

Gary Gilmore, commander of VFW Post 4541, presents WWII veteran Monroe with a folded American Flag in recognition of his military service while Monroe’s sister, Claire Sells, watches. (Photos by Steve Chapman)

James Monroe reacts with surprise as he comes out of his house to find himself applauded by members of the VFW and first responders.

Mt. Vernon’s Monroe, 97, recognized for service, declared a “double hero” in ceremony
A Mt. Vernon resident and veteran of WWII received an extra-special surprise on his 97th birthday. James Monroe was honored by his family, Lawrence County first-responders and members of the VFW Post 4541 with a ceremony in recognition of his service during the war on Wednesday, July 6.
Gary Gilmore, commander of Post 4541, began the ceremony by giving a brief history of Monroe’s service, including a story of how Monroe became part of the Army’s 101st Airborne.
“At 19 years of age, he volunteered to go into the service,” Gilmore said. “He started out as a railroader out in the great West and decided that when his unit got mobilized, that wasn't enough activity for him, so he volunteered to be a replacement. They put him into the 101st Airborne.”  
Continuing, Gilmore said that Monroe was made a machine gunner and eventually was stationed on the bank and took part in actions which contributed to the Allied victory in the Battle of the Bulge.
“Before it was over,” Gilmore said, “(Monroe) found himself in a foxhole manning a machine gun on the banks of the Rhine River, looking into Dusseldorf, Germany. And they actually went with Patton’s tanks, rolling across the bridge, to go in and clean out Dusseldorf as a part of the larger initiative of the Battle of the Bulge.”
Monroe declared “double hero for service, citizenship:
However, Gilmore said, Monroe’s heroism extended beyond his military service.
“There's a second story that is just as important as what he did for us (in the war),” Gilmore said, “and that is this man came home, and he raised his family (and) took care of business. He paid his taxes; he was a fine citizen among us, and I call him a double hero because of not only serving his country but coming home and living in the freedom that he … fought for.”
Gilmore then presented Monroe with a certificate declaring him a “double hero” for both his military service and citizenship, as well as an American flag which was ceremonially unfurled and then refolded.
“On behalf of a grateful nation and us all, for you service, sacrifice, for your citizenship that makes Mt. Vernon center of the world for us all, we are grateful to present this flag to you with our appreciation,” Gilmore told Monroe as he presented him with the flag.
Monroe “blown away” by ceremony, recalls time in Germany
Monroe said he was greatly pleased with the ceremony, calling it “fantabulous.”
“It about blew me away,” he said.
Gilmore and the others who planned the ceremony intended to surprise Monroe with their presentation, and Monroe said they succeeded. Noting the emergency vehicles which were parked outside of his home prior to the ceremony, including two firetrucks, Monroe said, “They drove up here, and I thought my house was on fire.”
Monroe also shared one memory he had of the war which he said he recalled “vividly.”
“I remember the Germans had shot a shell over the river, and it landed in the yard of the house where we were billeting,” he said. “And everyone walked by that bullet, but nobody wanted to touch it, because there was always the possibility it could have blown up if they had moved it.”
Gilmore said it was important to hold the ceremony because they wanted to thank veterans like Monroe while they still had the chance.
“He's a member of our VFW Post and our senior member,” Gilmore said, “and we just realized that there are very few WWII veterans left, and if we don't honor them now, we're going to miss that opportunity.”


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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