Before the annual Memorial Day ceremonies began Sunday at Crawford Cemetery, American Legion District 11 Commander Jimmy Davidson recognized four long-time local Legion members. "They have been faithful members of Lynch-Cotten Post," Davis told the crowd of about 200 who had gathered for the occasion. "The combined years of service of these gentlemen is 220 years."
Pat Childress, George Miller and Harold Cunningham were recognized for 50 years of service. Childress, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War, and Miller, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam were both unable to attend.
Cunningham has given more than 50 years of service to the legion, said Davidson. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II, he served on the Quad 50 Anti-Aircraft Battery, said Davidson.
Robert Keenan, a member of the Lynch-Cotten Post, was honored for his 70 years of service. He is a charter member of the post, which was organized in 1946.
Keenan is a Crawford native and spent most of his nearly 90 years in the area. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended the ceremony, coming from as far away as Denver.
Keenan, who served in World War II, was heading into his senior year at Crawford High School when he was drafted in 1944. He spent boot camp in San Diego and entered into the U.S. Navy Air Corps as a radio operator. "I wanted to be a gunner," said Keenan, who was ineligible due to the fact he wore glasses.
He was part of the military effort to protect the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay from the Japanese, who were believed to be targeting the bridge using submarines. Toward the end of the war Keenan said he wanted to be part of a team that witnessed nuclear bomb testing at Bikini Atoll, but the Navy let him go a week prior to the event. "They put $50 in my pocket and I hitchhiked back to San Diego," he said.
The ceremony also honored the "heartfelt memories of those who have gone before us and who gave lives in service of nation," said Davidson. In the past year, "Three more Americans have been called to the high commander of all." They include Harold Fender, who spent 20 years in the Air Force manning missile bases in the U.S. before and during the Vietnam era; Richard Eakin Jr., who served 16 years in the U.S. Army including eight years in the Army National Guard with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Carson, Colo., and with a guard unit in Montrose doing other various jobs; and Horst Kalin, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era.
Said Davidson, "Let us never forget that because of what they gave, the whole world is indebted to them."
The Crawford Legion assists other organizations, including the Crawford Fire Department, North Fork Ambulance, local governments, children and youth, said Davidson. They assist veterans in acquiring health care and education, provide honor guards for special events and parades, "and keep the American flags flying and keep alight the fires of patriotism and duty to this great nation."