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Library Happenings – Books bring insight on war heroes (Nov. 4, 2015 issue)

Since we will be closed for Veterans Day on Wednesday, Nov. 11, make sure you visit the library before then to get any books or DVDs you may want for the holiday. As a young child, I learned that my father and his five brothers served in the Navy during World War II and that their father served in the Army during the Spanish-American War. Daddy never bragged about his experience, but the pride he took in it always emerged during the annual Army-Navy football game!
I saw that the service my family had rendered was honored, so I knew it had been important. I never had any clear idea about what war entailed, however, until I read Irene Hunt’s “Across Five Aprils” in fourth grade. That assignment at least gave me an inkling.
Young Jethro Creighton is captivated by the swell of patriotism that heralds the beginning of the Civil War. Nevertheless, the danger, deprivation and heartache that inevitably attend conflict–even for those remaining on the home front–soon overtake his enthusiasm as his older brothers leave their southern Illinois farm to fight: two for the Union and one for the Confederacy.
A more visceral and introspective view of the Civil War came later from reading Stephen Crane’s classic “The Red Badge of Courage.” Raw recruit Henry Fleming joined the Union Army to experience the glory of combat, but as he waits for orders to march, he begins to doubt his courage. When Confederate soldiers regroup and charge his position after an apparent Union victory, Henry panics and flees from the engagement.
Deeply ashamed of his cowardly conduct, he longs for a wound: a red badge of courage. Wandering the fringes of the battlefield, Henry gets his wish when he is injured by another Union soldier who doesn’t want Henry to impede his overly hasty retreat. Henry is returned to his unit, who believe his wound was sustained in combat. Having been given a second chance, Henry reclaims his dignity on the following day and fights with valor and distinction.
After I reached adulthood, I delved into my family’s history and discovered a line of veterans that stretched from the American Revolution to World War II. I thrilled to the exploits of heroic forefathers and grieved with foremothers who learned their husband was maimed or their beloved son would never come home. And I came to understand the importance of each individual to the history of our country.
Thank you!
If you are a veteran who served in peacetime or in war, I want to thank you for your service. If you are not, please remember the sacrifices they made, and are still making, for us. And if you want to find a book or DVD that may help you to appreciate those sacrifices, come to the library and we will do our best to help.