It was St. Augustine who said, ?The purpose of all wars is peace.? With that prayerful hope, thousands of Harvey County men and women through the decades have answered the call of their country to defend and protect, putting their lives on the line for the sake of peace and freedom.
Now, the faces, names and spirit of nearly 900 of these selfless volunteers have been memorialized in a new book worthy of their courage and sacrifice. Titled ?Our Nation Called: Harvey County Answered,? the 120-page volume also contains nearly 1,000 photos submitted by area veterans, residents and veterans organizations.
?There is a temptation in preparing a book such as this one to glorify war and the feats of daring and heroic exploits performed by the men and women who fought them,? said Joel Klaassen, who spearheaded the project as publisher for much of the past year. ?That isn?t the goal of this book, however. We are more interested in the lofty ideal of service than the grim reality of war.?
Published by Free Press Books and sponsored by the Buyer?s Edge of South Central Kansas, ?Our Nation Called? covers the Civil War era to the Iraq War ? to the extent that information was available and submitted.
?If the editorial content is slightly skewed toward the events surrounding World War II, Korea and Vietnam, it is only because there was so much more material from this era submitted to us,? Klaassen said.
The information-gathering effort lasted a good four months, he added. With laptop and scanner in tow, Klaassen traveled to numerous locations around the county. Veterans organizations were a logical stop.
?We scanned at the New?ton VFW and the Newton American Legion, and the Halstead American Legion,? Klaassen said. ?We tried to contact the Sedgwick Ameri?can Legion numerous times to tell them what we were doing, but they never got back with us.?
Klaassen, who produced a veterans book for Marion County in 2012, expanded the scope of his search for the Harvey County project.
?This time we held scanning sessions at area retirement centers with the assumption that some of the older veterans would be living there, and it turned out that many did,? he said. ?On the list of retirement centers where we set up our scanner were Asbury Park, Presby?ter?ian Manor, Schowalter Villa and Kidron Bethel.?
The project also received a boost from the volunteer involvement of local people who were interested in the project.
?Several individuals spent a lot of time acquiring information about their family members, buddies and relatives which was very helpful,? Klaassen said.
?They were Richard Janzen, Duane ?Butch? Mosiman and Mervin Deschner.
?Many spouses and sons and daughters were very helpful in bringing their dads information to us as well,? he added. ?The memories were sometimes clouded by all of the years that had passed since they served in the military.?
Another helpful source of information was the Harvey County Historical Society.
?Their archive was very helpful,? Klaassen said. ?We became a member because the HCHS is a valuable resource for the area.?
Adding to the value of the book are feature articles written by Newton journalist Wendy Nugent chronicling the experiences of seven local veterans:
? Bill Bowen, of Newton, recalls his harrowing experience as a Marine severely wounded by the Japanese on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands during World War II.
? Loyd Brewer, of Hess?ton, witnessed the raising of an American flag on top of Mount Suribachi, on Iwo Jima. A photo of that event has become one of the iconic images in U.S. history.
? Felipe ?Phillip? Cervantes, of Newton, served with the Army in the European theatre during World War II. While participating in an Honor Flight in 2012, Cervantes was asked to place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.
? Hollis Donker, of Newton, recalls the nurturing connection that developed between a young orphan boy and Donner?s Army unit during the Korean War.
? Lee Ray Hiebert, Newton, describes what it was like serving in the Army with Elvis Presley in Frank?fort, Germany, during 1959.
? Bill Ryan, Newton businessman, reflects on his service with the Air Force in Southeast Asia, including the loss of friends serving as the crew of an F4 fighter that crashed in Vietnam during the early 1970s.
? Jaclyn Dickson, Newton, liked working in Vietnam as a civilian so much during the war that she decided to join the Navy when she was through. During her time of service, she even flew a helicopter once in Vietnam.
? Jeffery Millspaugh, Halstead, describes an attack on his military base in Iraq as a specialist in the Army National Guard, and how he and members of his squad risked their lives to assist the wounded.
?Our Nation Called? officially was released on Veterans Day, with four different events planned for the week. Klaassen said he was pleased with the reception the book received.
?Everyone seemed to appreciate the final product,? he said. ?We want to thank everyone who submitted or collected photos and informa?tion for this significant book. The project could not have happened without their support and involvement.?
Copies of the hard-cover book cost $43.20 each, including tax in Newton. The book can be ordered on line at www.hillsborofreepress.com, then clicking on the upper menu bar ?Online Store.?
The book also is available at the Newton VFW, Newton American Legion, Halstead American Legion, Presbyterian Manor, Harvey County Historical Society and Those Blasted Signs in Newton. The Newton Public Library also has a copy for public perusal.
by Don Ratzlaff