Fayetteville turned back time Saturday to celebrate the first-ever West Virginia World War II Weekend, highlighting what the state offered during the war.
While the day began with a parade filled with WWII veterans, Rosie the Riveters, and tanks and trucks from the time period, onlookers shouted, “Thank you for your service!” as individuals drove past.
For organizers of the event, a “thank you” was what it was truly all about.
Megan Hamilton, one of the organizers for the event, along with Chris and Cindy Kappler, of the non-profit World War II Living History Foundation Inc., said the event became a thought after they attended several other WWII re-enactments in other states.
“Chris and Cindy really respect World War II vets hugely,” Hamilton said. “They thought it would be good to have a re-enactment event here, but they really wanted it to go deeper and show respect to West Virginia World War II veterans.”
Hamilton said although West Virginia is small, the contributions it made to WWII were outsized.
“We had the fifth-highest rate per capita of soldiers overseas, we sent 600 million tons of coal overseas, and we had 11 Medal of Honor winners. The list just goes on and on and on what all West Virginia did during that war,” she said.
Hamilton said she and other organizers gathered as many WWII veterans as they could find, so the town could spend a day showing them respect and connect them to a broader community.
“The vets deserve the utmost respect, and we wanted to give the community an opportunity to thank them.”
The veterans were thanked in many ways throughout the day, in words and in song.
“Dear Lord, today we honor our veterans, worthy men and women who gave their best when they were called upon to serve and protect their country. .... Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced, for the sacrifices they made, for their many different contributions to America’s victory over tyranny and oppression,” Jon Kemper, a member of the Fayetteville Community Chorus, said during the invocation. “We respect them, we thank them, we honor them.”
Military tents and canopies were set up in front of the Fayette County Courthouse as men and women dressed in clothing from the WWII era took part in a fashion show on the courthouse steps.
A well-revered West Virginian was among those participating in Saturday’s activities. Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, U.S. Marine Corps Retired and a Medal of Honor recipient, rode in the parade then delivered remarks to the crowd assembled on Court Street.
“My mother was running a dairy farm in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, Marion County when the war began,” Williams said. “Individuals such as myself and my brothers all decided and determined that they were going to do whatever was necessary to protect one of the most valuable gifts God has ever given us, our freedom.
“They went to war, and somebody had to stay behind. Somebody had to do the work here so we could do our job over there. It was the Rosie the Riveters all over this country that put this thing together .... Had we not had Rosie the Riveter, I’m not quite sure we could have won the war. So let’s remember Rosie the Riveter.”
“Mom couldn’t be a Rosie the Riveter in a factory, but she ... could do something, and that was true with almost every American in the country,” he continued. People “came together to absolutely recognize ... that we must never forget the United States of America.”
“Thank you for taking the time out of your life, out of your day, to recognize that we are free because of others who made that sacrifice ...,” Williams stressed. “We must not ever, ever forget those who gave their lives in the armed forces from the time we became a nation.”
Ruby Coberly was one of those Rosie the Riveters to whom Williams referred. Coberly, of Glenville, worked for three years in a Glenn L. Martin Company airplane plant in Baltimore, Md. to do her part to help United States military personnel be prepared for battle. She was a typist who worked in the spare parts department, and she worked until the war was over.
“I was a country girl; I lived on a farm,” Coberly said Saturday. “I had never been to a big city.
“When I drove into Baltimore, I almost went in shock. At home, we had green grass. When I got to Baltimore, there was nothing but bricks, pastries and lots and lots of people.”
She remembers working smaller jobs — during a time in which she was experiencing new situations such as riding a streetcar — before she hired on with the Martin Company. Working alongside “thousands,” she aided the country’s war effort. Occasionally, there were things that made her think, though.
“I went to work one morning, and they had camouflage all over the parking lot,” Coberly said. “Well, that scared me.”
Why was it there, she asked? “In case some enemy comes over to bomb us,” was the reply.
Overall, her time as a Riveter “was a wonderful experience for me.” “But as soon as the war was over, I went back to Glenville as quick as I could get there,” she added with a laugh.
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According to event organizers, among the guests of honor Saturday were:
• Aubrey Allen, Army Airborne, WWII, Oak Hill;
• James Bess, Army, WWII, Oak Hill;
• Carlos Coleman, Army, WWII and Korea, Fayetteville;
• Guy Dooley, Army, WWII, Ansted;
• John Droppleman, Army, WWII, Fayetteville;
• Ruby Garrett-Coberly, Glenn L. Martin Aviation, WWII, Glenville;
• Lacy Hurt, Navy, WWII, Pax;
• Vienna Hurt, “Rosie,” WWII, Bradley;
• Herb Lindsey, Army Air Corps, WWII, and Army Infantry, Korea, Hinton;
• Harlow W. McHenry, Army, WWII, Summersville;
• Wilber Newell, 8th Air Force, WWII, Stahlstown, Pa.;
• Bill Nuckols, Navy, WWII, Ansted;
• Paul Ramsey, Army Air Corps, WWII, Ansted;
• Harold Stone, Army Air Corps, WWII, Beckley;
• Robert Wheeler, Merchant Marine, WWII, Coast Guard, Navy, Beckley;
• Norman F. White, Army Air Corps, WWII, Oak Hill;
• Woody Williams, Marine Corps, WWII, Ona;
• Harry Thompson;
• Cleve Brewer; and
• Carl Beverage.
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For more on the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation and the foundation’s work with Gold Star Families, visit www.hwwmohf.org.