By GEORGE HOUK
Each morning, by dawn’s early light, Virgil and June Smith look out their dining room window at the memorial Virgil has literally cut in stone to honor America and salute the seven sons his mother and father sent off to serve in our country’s military.
Of the seven who served, six came home to enjoy the freedoms they fought to protect. For Virgil’s older brother, Robert Don Smith, the ultimate price was paid on Christmas Day 1953 at a place called Pork Chop Hill in Korea.
Virgil’s talents for art, speech and music came together during the two years spent completing his elegant, yet simple, memorial.
Starting with a dream coupled with a vision, the hard work began with a millstone from a local farm in northeastern Ohio. Virgil split the stone in half and carved “AMERICA” in the arch of the first half of the stone and “THE BEAUTIFUL” in the other half of the stone’s arch.
Proudly yet modestly placed in the center between the stone halves is a tribute to “Mom” with pictures of the seven sons she watched from the front porch as they left to become just common soldiers.
Both a poet and a musician, Virgil has recorded two stirring poems, which bring the memorial to life with the touch of a button.
Built with his own personal love and sweat, this monument is truly dedicated to the love of family and country. While few people have seen this beautiful tribute to America’s veterans, the Smiths welcome visitors who would like to spend a few quiet moments among the fountains, trees, and birds and reflect on the price paid by families and friends, who have made America what it is today.
Man behind the monument
Virgil Smith is an amazing, yet very ordinary, individual. Born the 12th of 13 children, he grew up on Sinking Creek in Glenville, W.Va.
The son of Hannigan and Grace Smith, Virgil served in the Army and was stationed at Eniwetok (now Enewetak), in the South Pacific Marshall Islands from 1956-1958.
After college, Virgil came to Ohio as a teacher of English, drama and speech. An accomplished and published poet, he brings his Appalachian roots to life in his works.
JUST COMMON SOLDIERS
Faded photographs in olive drab
tell but half the story.
Left untold are words never spoken —
lonely nights in a tent in the Philippines
with a wife and baby back home;
a month of unconsciousness
with typhus and malaria
along the Burma Road to China;
the incessant heavy artillery
followed by screams of dying soldiers,
in a New Caledonia jungle.
All voices frozen in time.
My mom stood on the front porch
and watched seven sons leave
to become just common soldiers.
No gold star or oak cluster
festooned their uniform,
maybe a sleeve stripe or two.
But they served with distinction
and all returned with honor.
Even the one killed in Korea
that stopped forever a mother’s song.
Yes, there were some medals
lost in bureau drawers over the years,
also fringed silk cushion covers
from places unknown to country folk,
a Japanese sword, a German Luger,
and a few other faded mementos
made fragile by time.
That’s about all.
Mostly, they wanted to forget.
So let the faded brown pictures,
cracked with age,
speak of the lost innocence of youth.
The men behind the pictures
Wish to forget the shrapnel.
Their guns have long been stilled,
and some sleep the eternal sleep.
Understand the silence
of those still with us.
The very scenes they wish to forget
we need to remember.
— Virgil L. Smith