"I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE ------------!"

“I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE -----------!”
Story and photograph by Robert D. Muckel, Ph.D.
It is always with great emotion that I recite our Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. Most of us quietly show our allegiance to America every day by paying our taxes, voting and working to improve our country. During World War II, our allegiance was demonstrated in more visible ways by doing such things as collecting paper and scrap metal for the war effort as well as collecting milkweed pods for the cotton as flotation material for life jackets for our seagoing soldiers and sailors. We also bought $18.75 war bonds 10 cents at a time. My dad, Art, who was too old for the military, worked as a carpenter at the Kearney airbase. Mom and I raised a Victory garden at home. Many had the privilege of showing their allegiance by serving in the armed forces.
The photograph above is of a ceremony on Memorial Day 2012 honoring Master Sgt. Donald Versaw, UNMC, for his service to our country and being held as a prisoner of war (POW) of the Japanese during World War II. The picture shows Adjutant Lawrence Waring, and me as commander, present a plaque to Don (from left to right) as he was honored by our Bloomington, Neb., Paul Hartt American Legion Post 145. A replica of the plaque is displayed in the Bloomington Community Center. Don (Red) was captured in the Philippines early during the war and endured more than three years as a POW of the Japanese military. He has described his horrendous treatment as a POW to me several times over the years. His experiences as a POW were much like that of Louis Zamperini, whose story recently became known to us from both the movie and the book entitled “Unbroken.” I myself experienced considerable emotion as I recalled the capture and mistreatment of American soldiers in World War II as my ship, USS Whetstone, sailed by the site of the Bataan Death March as we approached the island of Luzon in 1955. Don and Louis passed away this past year; both were in their 90s.
Memorial (Decoration) Day has always been a time when military personnel are particularly cited for their allegiance to our flag and to America. As a youngster in the 1930s and 1940s I helped Mom collect the irises and peonies to place on the graves of veterans and our deceased family members and friends at Maple Grove Cemetery in Bloomington. It was a thrill to follow the veterans of the Drum and Bugle Corps of the Paul Hartt post as they marched the half-mile to the cemetery, and then later scrambling for the spent cartridges ejected from the “03 Springfield” rifles by the firing squad. Many veterans of World War I and World War II were my friends, and I enjoyed watching them as they participated in the ceremony. While commander of the post, my research of our membership over the years revealed that over 200 men and women from the Bloomington area served in the armed forces during World War II. Both of my brothers, Raymond and Francis, served in the military during the war and usually participated in Memorial Day services. Raymond served with Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. Francis survived skirmishes with Japanese kamikaze airplanes as he served on a mine sweeper in the Pacific Theater. Francis later died from cancer that was probably due to the radiation he was exposed to when he served as a guard in Hiroshima shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped there.

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