Laura Dean Bennett
Veterans Day is a big deal here in Pocahontas County.
After all, West Virginia is among the states with the highest per capita population of veterans and Pocahontas County, alone, has about 600 veterans living within her borders.
Veterans Day is November 11, a date which is far from arbitrary. The number 11 is in reference to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when World War I – the “War to End All Wars” – formally came to an end.
In commemoration of Veterans Day, the McClintic, Hillsboro and Durbin libraries have organized displays they hope will be of interest to veterans, students and everyone who would like to learn more about America’s military, and the men and women who have so honorably served.
Cree Lahti, Director of the Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitor Information Centers, said the libraries are pleased to focus attention on our veterans’ service.
“I’m proud that our libraries can emphasize the connection our communities have with our veterans,” Lahti said.
Lahti, a resident of Arbovale, explained her personal connection to Veterans Day.
“Like many of us, I have family members who served in the military,” she said.
Her grandfather on her mother’s side, Mark Cassells, from Chicago, joined the U.S. Army during World War II at the age of 17 and fought in the European theater.
He and her grandmother, Julia Cassells, met and married after the war.
Her grandfather on her father’s side – Donald Lahti – served in the U.S. Navy during WWII.
“It seems most people have at least some connection to someone who has served or is serving in the military,” Lahti added.
“As we remember our veterans during Veterans Day, it’s a good time to remind people that they can always come to their library for veteran-related research or information about veteran services.”
Cassie Williams, librarian at the Hillsboro Library, and a part-time librarian at McClintic, was tasked by Lahti to organize displays for both libraries for Veterans Day.
“I was delighted with the assignment,”Williams said. “I’ve always felt a great connection to Veterans Day.”
And, in fact, her family has an actual – if indirect – connection to the history of Veterans Day.
“On my mom’s side of the family, I have eight cousins.
“We are three-times-grand-nieces and a three-times-grand-nephew of Woodrow Wilson,” Williams said.
“President Wilson established the forerunner of Veterans Day – which was Armistice Day.
“Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day by President Dwight D. Eisenhower after WWII,” she added.
Williams was born in Pocahontas County.
Her family lived on Browns Mountain in Huntersville.
Her mom is Becky Terry and her dad is Robert Edwards.
“I come from a family of veterans,” Williams said proudly. “Both of my great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War.
“All my uncles – my mom’s three brothers – served during Viet Nam. Tommy and Ronnie Terry were in the Army, and Danny Terry was a United States Marine.
“My cousin, Lorie Fromm, served in the army during Desert Storm and now she’s in the Army Corps of Engineers in Northern Pennsylvania.
“My mother’s father, Raymond E. Edwards, was an Army Private 1st Class who fought during WWII and was there on D-Day.
“After the war, he moved to Clarksburg and married my grandmother, Carol Gribble.
“Her father – my maternal grandfather – served in the army in WWI.”
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Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Woodell is the Commander of the Pocahontas County Honor Corps.
He is often asked to reflect on the meaning of military service and asked to speak at Veterans Day events.
“I think Veterans Day is important,” he said. “It recognizes the sacrifices that men and women of all of our uniformed services have made for our country.
“Wherever they serve, the American flag always flies.
“Whenever someone signs up for the military, it’s as though they are signing a blank check made out to America – meaning they are willing to give up their life to protect the flag and their country.
“They are willing to give up their life for the freedoms we hold so dear,” Wooddell concluded.
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Members of the community who have family members who are, or were, veterans, are encouraged to bring photos of them to be included in Veterans Day displays at the Hillsboro Library, the McClintic Library in Marlinton and the Durbin Community Library.
The libraries will be reaching out to Pocahontas County teachers to offer library resources and lists of veteran-related books to share with their classes.
Students of history will find books about the American Revolution, the Indian Wars, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII, the Korean War, Viet Nam and the attack on 9/11.
Of particular interest to very young children may be the collection of books about the K-9 Corps.
In the History Room at the McClintic Library is a fascinating collection of poetry written by active service members serving during WWII.
There are also biographies of Pocahontas County veterans compiled in the Veterans Oral History Project.
These include recordings by Joel Callison, Leroy Sharp, Harlan Whiting, Eleanor McLaughlin, Tim Henry, Charles Arbogast and many others.
Call ahead and make an appointment with the librarian to spend time in the History Room, as access is limited.
At the Hillsboro Library, like the McClintic Library, Williams has organized an impressive Veterans Day display including books, research on various aspects of military service and photos.
“It’s been interesting doing research about veterans and pulling together these displays,” Williams noted. “I’m learning a lot.”
Although all Pocahontas County Libraries and Visitor Centers will be closed on Veterans Day, all library patrons are encouraged to visit the Veterans Day displays at the McClintic, Hillsboro and Durbin libraries at any other time during the month of November – into December.
The displays will remain up until the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor – December 7.
“I love the idea of honoring our local veterans with these displays,” Lahti said. “So many people in our community are veterans or have family members who have served.
“We want to teach future generations the importance of honoring our veterans.
“Honoring them in a public space, like the library, is a way of saying thank you.
“I know it’s been confusing for people during the pandemic – whether the libraries are open, when we’re open and what our policies are,” she added.
“We want everyone to know that the libraries are open and they are welcome to come in.
“Of course, we do need our patrons to wear masks and to respect social distancing guidelines, but they can absolutely come to the library.
“They can just drop by or they can make appointments, which are especially encouraged for anyone planning to use the computer or in need of some particular assistance.
“Our librarians are here to help.”
For more information about Pocahontas County libraries, or the Veterans Day displays, call your local branch or the main branch, the McClintic Library at 304-799-4165, or email pochontaslibrary.org