2017-08-16 / Opinions

Local heroes died fighting evil Nazis

A painted rock that says “Thank You” rested on the leg of a war memorial statue in front of the Letcher County Courthouse recently. This photo was taken by Jordan Absher. A painted rock that says “Thank You” rested on the leg of a war memorial statue in front of the Letcher County Courthouse recently. This photo was taken by Jordan Absher. Larry Davidson. Jack Davis. William R. DePriest.

Names cover the panels on the Letcher County Courthouse. Every name is a soldier who died in service of the United States of America.

Ernest Dills Jr. Teddy M. Dingus. James E. Dixon. Kirby Dixon. William M. Duncan.

Eighty-seven Letcher County soldiers, Marines and seamen died during World War II. They died in the jungles of the South Pacific, in the forests of Germany, on the beaches of Normandy.

Delza Eldridge. Lewis Ellish. Arlie Fields. Dixon Fields. Jesse L. Fletcher. Chester Flint.

They died fighting not just for their country, but for the world. They died for Poland, France, Morocco, Okinawa, Korea.

Murray Fonts. James M. Frazier. Lewis Fugate. Jesse J. Gillian. James H. Greene. Hargis Griffith. David Hatton Sr. Arthur Hendrix. Gatewood Hoffman. Chester Holbrook.

These soldiers, many of them volunteers, died fighting a force as evil as the world has ever known — the Nazis in Germany, the PNF in Italy and the Showa in Japan — all fascist regimes bent on destroying those who were different and subjugating the world.

Dolphia Holbrook. Wesley Holbrook. Gathel Halcomb. John R. Holland. Raymond V. Hopkins. Earnest Howard. Orville J. Howington. Hershel Hudgins. Worley C. Hughes. Willard D. Hyatt. Bill Ison. Earl Ison. James Ison. Roland Ison.

They were among more than 60 million who died during the war, 3 percent of the world’s population. Of that 60 million, nearly half were civilians killed in military actions, including 6 million Jews executed by the Nazis in their campaign for racial purity.

Harold S. Jenkins. Gilbert O. Jones. Walter H. Jones. Sterling King. Clayton Kissinger. Fritz Lee Jr. John S. Lewis. Fulton Logan. David B. Logsdon. Claude Looney. Eli Lucas. Luther J. Lucas. Cecil McCarthy. Billy McRoberts. R. B. Marshall. James V. Martin.

The Nazis killed, maimed, orphaned based solely on the color of a people’s skin, or their religious heritage. They kidnapped, tortured, experimented all in the name of creating a perfect Aryan race. And when they were done, they piled the dead bodies in ditches or marched them still alive into crematoriums and burned them.

Willie D. Monhollen. Doyle Morris. Gilmer Mullins. Ernest Mullins. Glen Mullins. Henry Mullins. Marvin Newsome. Harold T. Nicholson. Edward Norton. James T. Pece. Hershel Pennington. Marvin Permestta. Sidney Pigman.

Last weekend, a crowd gathered in Charlottesville, Va. They carried shields and clubs. They carried torches, beat a young black man in a parking garage, chanted anti-Semitic slogans and waved the red and black flags of Nazi Germany.

Eugene Polly. Willard Polly. A.C. Potter. Edward Potter. Fernoy Profitt. Benjamin F. Ramey. Emmett Reed Jr. Virgil Reynolds. Virgil E. Roberts. Carl Rudd.

In the violence that followed, a silver Dodge Challenger barreled down a street where counter protestors stood, not stopping until it hit another vehicle parked in the street. It struck and injured 19 people. It killed a 32-year-old woman who chose to fight against the Nazis. The driver then put the car in reverse and sped down the street backward. A 20-year-old white man from Ohio who teachers say was infatuated with Nazism was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

It is the kind of killing we read about in other countries. The kind of killing that is in all other countries, swiftly named for what it is: Terrorism.

One hundred and thirty-one thousand Americans died fighting fascism in Europe, Africa, Asia, and in our own country during World War II. Their names appear on war memorials all over the country, in family Bibles, in genealogy texts, and in the hearts of a grateful nation.

Now the evil they countered has blossomed in our own heartland, and the American president could barely find it in his heart to call it what it is and condemn it.

What would these honored dead have to say about that? Were their deaths in vain? There are not “many sides” to this violence. There is only one side to blame, and it is the side carrying Nazi flags, denigrating people based on their race and religion, and running over peaceful protestors who disagree with them. This is not what the people whose names are on the front of our courthouses died for. This is what they died fighting against.

And now another name can be added to the list of those who died fighting against the injustice of Nazism.

Heather Heyer.

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