County Honor Rolls
A stranger can learn a lot about a small town just by dropping into the local coffee shop for a quick meal. This morning I spent a half hour at the Gemini Coffee Shop, just a few blocks south of the McCurtain County memorials at the courthouse.
I confirmed that the residents really do care about their veterans, especially those that served with the local National Guard unit. The coffee shop patrons were a mix of farmers, merchants, retirees, and each of them shared the dream of getting away from Oklahoma, even if only for a few days, to learn more about America.
The lady in this photo is Jackie and she, like the others in the shop, works hard to keep a smile on the face of the customers. I left the shop with one of those smiles and it stayed with me all day as I rode toward Vernon, Texas.
On the honor roll listing of those lost in World War II was the name of Pvt Osbrone Blanche Jr. He is the second of two I have found that died aboard the "Hell Ship" Shinyo Maru on September 7, 1944. Believing the Shunyo Maru was a Japanese troop ship, the submarine USS paddle sunk the vessel near the Phillipine island of Mindanao.
Blanche was probably one of the men that survived the Bataan Death March of 1942, and then held by the Japanese Army in outrageous conditions that were later deemed to be war crimes.
James O'Rear, a football star of Idabel High School and the eighth of eleven O'Rear children, took his oath of enlistment on July 4, 1943. O'Rear trained for the airborne forces and went abroad with 513th Parachute Inf Regiment of the 17th Airborne Divsion. He embarked a troopship on August 20th of '44 for an eight day trip to England and the regiment arrived in France on Christmas Eve. James was killed in action in Belgium on January 4, 1945.
The O'Rear family had already been exposed to the losses from World War II. Eight days after James enlisted one of the O'Rear sons-in-law was killed in North Africa. SSgt Alvia Pollard had married Jim's older sister, Berlene, in 1941. Pollard had lots of experience when the war came around. He had been serving with Company G, the local Guard unit, for several years. He left Berlene and a young son to mourn him.
Alvia's first cousin, TSgt Leon H Pollard, joined the Air Corp just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A year later he was in the Pacific, flying as a radio operator with the "Lucky Dices" of the 65th Bomb Squadron. For more than 12 months he had seen Port Moresby, Dobodura, and Nadzab in New Guinea as places to call home. The squadron had been beating up Japanese held islands as the Navy took Army and Marine Corps troops island hopping toward Japan.
On May 18, 1944, Leon and ten other crewmen of B-24D BuNo 42-41257 were killed as the aircraft finished a bomb run at Wake Island.
The young men and women of McCurtain County enjoyed all of the advantages of living in a small town while growing up. When the news of their deaths began to come home it was their families that began to reap the benefit of life in a small town. Neighbors, relatives, merchants, and friends came together to hold and protect those left behind. That's the way of a small town.