I suppose you might call me an old "sentimentalist" because I tend to "tear up" when the flag goes by in a parade and on so many other occasions. July 4th is a red-letter day on my calendar because on July 4, 1945 my husband received his discharge from the U. S. Army. His one year had extended into four years and four months
Looking back over my life I remember the 6th day of January 1941. I had just started to work as bookkeeper at the Ford dealer that previous November.
That was almost a year before we were bombed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. This was the occasion of the local National Guard being mobilized and called up for active duty. There were 123 enlisted men and 5 officers that marched through downtown Minden that day.
As I stood in front of the First Methodist Church in that chilly January weather, my heart was touched by the wives, sweethearts, children and even babies that were being left behind as these men left for military service.
Of that group there are just a very few living today. H. Clint Brewer, Otis Strong, George Wiltheis, Jack Martin, Asa Robinson, and Grady Frazier of Houston, Tex. are the only ones that I am aware of being alive today.
And then on March 17 a group of draftees left Minden. Among this group was my future husband, J. C. Agan, Jr. I remember him coming by the office and telling all of us goodbye. It was such a sad day for all the employees, and especially for me.
During the war years my boss, Mr. Leon Adkins, corresponded with many of the boys he had taught in Sunday School. He posted their letters on a big bulletin board in our office. Each time there was one of Minden's own wounded or killed, word spread across town and our hearts ached for those loved ones.
When word came that Leon Allen had been killed, the Lions Club asked that Mr. Harry Andress send a letter to the family.
It fell my duty to compose the letter. I read some of the letters that President Lincoln sent parents of sons who were killed during the Civil War and I used some of his expressions to compose my letter. I did not know Leon but I knew his family here, and it was such a sad task to write that letter.
After the war was over, J. C. came home and we were married. We visited the East Coast on several occasions. It was our privilege in 1948 to see the Declaration of Independence in the Library of Congress.
We also viewed the flag that flew over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner" while on the battleship Minden. I was moved to tears as I viewed these treasures from our country's past.
In later years these things were moved to the National Archives for permanent care to ensure the public could view them for many years to come. On subsequent trips we viewed them there.
Since my son has loved history since before he even started first grade, we made trips so that we could stand on the site of many battles that were fought during the Civil War - Gettysburg, and many others down the East Coast. In the last decade my son has carried me to the site of the Battle of Shiloh.
At Chalmette where the Battle of New Orleans was fought, I was so moved by the many rows of little white crosses. To think they died in vain, because that battle was fought after the War of 1812 was over, but there were no telephones, cables or any way to spread the word, that peace was now in effect.
For many years our church had a patriotic program each Fourth of July. As the music was played for each branch of service, the men who served in that branch came to the front of the auditorium.
There were many damp eyes as tears were often shed. Following my husband's death in 1989, I could almost visualize him among those men as the Army marched to the front. He had been so proud to march with that group of men. You can know that I cried that day, too.
In my hall closet hangs the dress uniform of my husband with its Sergeant's stripes and his insignia that identified his branch of the army. In my closet, high on a shelf is the huge flag that was presented to me at his funeral.
Tucked away in a drawer is the little mess kit that he carried across North Africa and into Sicily and Italy. It is just a little metal pan with a lid, with a few pieces of eating utensils inside, but to me it is so precious. His ribbons indicate five major battles in the march across Africa as they routed Rommel out.
The little flags that are placed by the American Legion each Memorial Day should be a reminder of how much we owe these men who went and served gallantly in so many difficult situations.
Now you see I am just an old sentimentalist, because I have been crying as I tried to put down my thoughts in this little article. The flag as it passes by, makes me break out in "goose bumps" and somehow it seems that I cannot see too well because of the tears that come to my eyes. Not only will I say "God Bless America" but also God bless these men who went to keep America safe.
Juanita Agan passed away in October, 2008 at the age of 85. She had been a Minden resident since 1935 and a columnist for the Press-Herald since 1995. A constant writer, Mrs. Agan had many stories written but unpublished. The Press-Herald will continue to publish these articles as long as they are submitted.