Was it worth it?
The 53,402 Americans who died in combat in World War I. The 291,557 who gave their lives in World War II. The 33,686 casualties of the Korean War. The 47,424 dead in the Vietnam War. The 149 U.S. troops killed in the Persian Gulf War. The 1,954 who died in Afghanistan. The 3,836 who have to date been killed in Iraq.
Was it worth it?
That was the question posed Monday by the Rev. Duane Anderson of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Elyria. A veteran of the United States Air Force, he was the keynote speaker at Oberlin’s Memorial Day service at Wright Park.
The United States annual military budget is more than a half-trillion dollars. Our armed forces continue to fight across the globe. The threat of another major conflict is on the horizon. And America is deeply divided on how to be great, Anderson said.
Is it worth it?
Apple pies, the president, and American-made cars aren’t what make the country great. The United States is great because of people who defend our ideals from dangers both foreign and domestic, he said. They take an oath of service knowing they could pay with their lives.
“So yes, it was worth it,” said Anderson.
This year marks the centennial of America’s entrance into World War I on April 6, 1917. Master of ceremonies Steve Johnson said it was called “The Great War” and “The War to End All Wars” but lived up to neither name.
He offered words of thanks to the U.S. soldiers buried in graves overseas — there are more than 130,000 in 10 other nations.
Johnson also spoke of the Oberlin service members whose names are lost to the mists of history. A plaque at Wright Park memorializes a handful, and Johnson has been working to gather a comprehensive list.
Though many years have passed and the city’s war dead have “melted into obscurity,” he called for a rededication to their memory.
Monday’s ceremony also paid homage to 2nd Lt. Ferrier White of the United States Armed Air Forces, a 1939 graduate of Elyria High School who, as a resident of Oberlin, enlisted in 1942.
White became a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen and died in 1945 while serving in Italy.
He is among the local Tuskegee heroes whose names appear on a monument to be unveiled June 10 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.