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Foot Soldiers To Be Honored

Beacon Journal staff writer

For Ray Bethel, the memories of being a foot soldier in Korea fade in time. That’s why the poem he wrote is so important. It appears on a granite monument that will be dedicated at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery on Monday – Veteran’s Day.
“It gets harder to remember,” said the 71-year-old Bethel, a retired teacher, school administrator and football coach from Chillicothe . Bethel belongs to a Columbus Combat Infantrymen’s Association that joined with the Akron chapter of the same organization to raise $1400 for the monument which honors combat soldiers.
The monument will be dedicated Monday at a 2 p.m. ceremony. On it are Bethel ’s Words:

“We were boys and we were young
We became men on that hill we overran
Some of us lived, many of us died
For a moment with us abide
And join in prayer with me
To honor those of the combat infantry.”

Also engraved on the monument are the combat infantrymen’s patch of a rifle inside a wreath and a picture of an inverted rifle with a helmet on the butt. The inscription at the bottom of the monument reads: “Freedom has a price the protected will never know.
The Combat Infantrymen’s Association was formed in 1985 and now has its national headquarters in Asheville, N.C. Walt McDonald, a 55-year old disabled Vietnam veteran who heads the Akron chapter, said there are nearly 90 members of his group, which meets the third Sunday every other month at VFW Post 3383 on Waterloo Road.
“The camaraderie of the infantry is something else,” McDonald said. Member Ted George, a 70-year-old Korean War veteran from Westfield Center , said the infantry is the smallest Army branch, “but they sustain the majority of the casualties.
Another member, 76-year-old Andy Wells, of Springfield Township , who fought in the Philippines in World War II, said he emotional just seeing the monument.
“You are 18 years old again,” he said, “and you are somewhere you never thought you would be, and you lose friends, and you hear taps. It break me up.”
Bethel said he never expected his poem to be placed on the monument. “It overwhelms me,” he said. The worst part of being in combat, Bethel said, was “the anticipation of not knowing was will happen.” He described the monument as an opportunity “for all of us who were in the infantry and were in war to honor our fellows who did not make it back and were hurt pretty bad.”
Over the years, he often thought he would visit the families of his friends who died in combat. But time passed and that didn’t happen. Now he hopes the monument and his words will reach anyone who comes to the cemetery.
“I hope this is a contribution to those who died,” he said. “It comes from all of us.”


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