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 The Globe-Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, IowaMay 25, 2015

Echelbarger: 'Listen to the stones'
Ashley Miller

MASON CITY -- A Korean veteran urged North Iowans Monday to “listen to the stones” marking graves of those killed in military combat.

“The most heart-wrenching question is, does anybody remember us and the sacrifices we made?” Robert Echelbarger said, in reference to fallen veterans.

Echelbarger was addressing more than 100 in attendance at Mason City’s Memorial Day services at VFW Post 733.

With more than 1 million U.S. servicemen and women killed from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War, Echelbarger said there are bound to be some unanswered questions. While victims of World War I and II might inquire if their death was in vain or if it preserved democracy, questions from those who died in more recent wars might be race-related.

Echelbarger's voice broke as he recounted carrying a fellow soldier’s lifeless body in Korea. He thinks his buddy, who was black, would have asked, “Are African-Americans Americans too?”

A Latino who was killed in Vietnam might question if his family and friends had rights, too.

Echelbarger also read from a famous sermon given by Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn, the first Jewish chaplain for the Marine Corps. Gittelsohn, who was appointed at a time when racial and religious prejudice was rampant in the U.S., gave the speech while dedicating a cemetery for Iwo Jima’s fallen.

“'To speak in memory of such men as these is not easy,'” Echelbarger said as he quoted Gittelsohn. “'Of them too it can be said with utter truth: The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.

“'It can never forget what they did here.'”

The service also included music from the Mason City High School Band, a flag salute and reading of the Gettysburg Address by Boy Scouts, a wreath-laying ceremony and decoration of the monument of the unknown dead.

Photograph courtesy of Globe-Gazette
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2016

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