Dolores Smith was right: Each of these award recipients would be full-column-worthy.
However, we’ll pack them into this space — just as the long, recent Friday night ceremony at the Holiday Inn Valley View was packed with pageantry, speakers and very old songs.
And Salem was well-represented at this annual state convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Virginia Division. (Four winners, their families, and the convention chairman.)
So, here in the middle of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, it was an hours-long, well-orchestrated swirl, a veritable Virginia reel: Flags. White gloves. Hoop skirts; fine gowns. Confederate-grey uniforms (Botetourt Artillery color guard and others). Rifles! (I was under-dressed and under-armed. But the wrenching stories about Civil War soldiers’ sufferings reminded me not to complain.)
There were prayers and pledges and presentations. Many opportunities to salute, stand and applaud flags, veterans, families and UDC officers. Engaging speaker Ronald L. Coleman told stories of “Unsung Confederate Heroes.”
But the evening’s focus was Military Service Awards. Convention Chairman / Salemite Dolores gave one of the welcomes, and told a history of the UDC’s Cross of Military Service: A medal suggested back in 1898.
UDC officers bestowed the crosses on those whose distinguished battlefield “patriotic devotion to flag and country” has proven them “worthy of their [family lineage]” from Confederate soldiers and sailors. Honorees are said to prove the motto “The brave beget the brave” (there’s Latin for that).
From World War II, two Salemites: George White Snead, Army. (Later he mused that in all his 31 months of Pacific duty, not once did anyone ask “‘Why are we here?’ Homesick, yes, but we knew why we were there.”) And Raymond W. Garnett, Army, who served on several fronts. (“He’s 89 and still bags groceries at Kroger,” said proud daughter Diane Richardson — present with husband Price and extended family, and sister Barbara Garnett).
Buck Jones accepted brother Lester Lee Jones’ (of Roanoke) award in absentia.
From both the Korean and Vietnam War / Conflict: James Maurice Craft, Army.
From the Global War on Terror (three operations): Texan Stephen Lee Clower, Air Force.
National Defense Medals were given to Samuel Franklin Varney Jr. (Army, Vietnam) and Robert William Perdue (Navy, Persian Gulf).
And there were surprises for two more Salemites: Receiving the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal (“the highest non-lineage award”) were Roanoke College History Prof. / author John Selby and RC History Prof. Mark Miller (“for furthering the preservation of Civil War history to students, citizens, etc.”). (Dolores Smith is a past recipient of the honor.)
We asked new-ish UDC members what they liked about the organization. “Learning so much, especially about one’s own ancestor. And the period clothing!” said Kim Henderson. Ebullient retired teacher Sarah Jones isn’t into costumes, but greatly appreciates the knowledgeable speakers at meetings. “I even drink buttermilk now that I’ve learned [Genl. R. E.] Lee was partial to it,” she laughed.
A toast — buttermilk or otherwise — to veterans and scholars.