FERNLEY — They are names of veterans who served their country but after they died, their remains went unclaimed.
Each person has a story of service and dedication, and many had endured the hardships of war ranging from World War II to Korea. Every month the Nevada Veterans Coalition performs a military service to honor forgotten men and women, and at a recent ceremony at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Ceremony, guests learned more about a World War I soldier.
Kat Miller, director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Service, revealed one story.
“Let me tell you about one of the veterans we honor today,” she said. “This veteran is no more special than any of these extraordinary people; however, I want to bring one of them, ‘To Life’ to remind us that those before us are not simply urns-of-ashes.”
Pvt. Edward Cooley, one of the veterans remembered this month, had a rich, full life, according to Miller. Cooley was born in 1896 to a store manager and homemaker, and during his lifetime, he had a love for music.
“But there is no money in playing a saxophone, coronet, flute or drum, all of which he played extraordinary well,” Miller said. “He enlisted in the America Expeditionary Force in 1918, becoming a member of the Truck Company 7 of the 23rd Engineer Regiment.”
Out of patriotism and his nation’s calling, Cooley enlisted in the Army and knew he would ship off to Europe to fight the Germans. Miller said the soldiers boarded the troop transport ship USS George Washington, the third largest ship in the world at the time, for a 14-day trip to France.
“She has an interesting historical footnote; on April 14, 1912, as a luxury liner, the George Washington passed a particularly large iceberg south of Newfoundland and radioed a warning to all ships in the area, including White Star Line ocean liner Titanic,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, as we know, the Titanic did not make good use of this intelligence.”
As the George Washington sailed to Europe, Miller said all on board were lucky not to encounter German U-boats, outbreak of the deadly Spanish influenza or shipboard accidents, but she said an occasional fight between the sailors and soldiers would break out, “all in good fun according to witnesses.”
Miller told of a shipmate’s account of the American fighting men leaving port from New Jersey: “No one will forget the hour of departure — shrouded in darkness, we left our pier at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 30, 1918, and moved quietly down the river and out the bay bidding a fond, if silent, farewell to New York and our Lady Liberty.”
Once the unit arrived in France, soldiers rebuilt roads and terminals but faced enough enemy artillery fire to keep busy. Because of his musical talent, Cooley transferred to the regimental band and served as a musician until war’s end. Miller said Cooley returned home in 1919 and took a job as a truck driver and salesman and married the love of his life, Mabel … but Cooley never lost his love of music and volunteered as a conductor and member of several local bands. When he was 40 years old, Miller said Cooley decided to attend college and once he graduated, he became a high-school music teacher and performed locally. Mabel, sadly, died in 1949, but the World War I veteran eventually remarried. His second wife Ida died in 1973, and Cooley passed away nine years later.
“Each of these containers hold a person with lives as full and interesting as Edward’s was,” Miller said. “But, without the determination of the Nevada Veterans Coalition and others, these patriots would be forgotten. Today, we make the final walk with them — to honor their service, and to say ‘Goodbye comrade.’ We did not know you, but you are one of us.”
Narrator and NVC member Tom Draughon also said a World War II veteran, Vaughn Curtis, died three years after his wife, Mary. Their remains had been sitting on a shelf.
“We are giving the final honors for both of them,” Draughon said.
For the 16 honored at the NNVMC, Draughon said to those in attendance, “We are the family for these veterans.”
Glenna Smith, public affairs officer for the VA hospital in Reno, said it was a solemn honor for her to pay tribute to the military members and spouse. She said her grandfather was a World War I veteran, but she never had the opportunity to know him.
Before the Patriot Guard riders led a procession of volunteers carrying urns to the columbarium wall, Draughon said each military service to remember forgotten veterans gives closure to each of them and provides a final resting place.
Those honored included:
Margareta Alfred (1915-1981), U.S. Army, Dec. 1944-Oct. 1945, WWII
Earl Anderson (1894-1975), U.S. Army, June 1918-Dec. 1918, WWI
Harry Anderson (1919-1983), U.S. Navy 22, Dec. 1941-July 1945, WWII
James Anderson (1912-1981), U.S. Army, Sept. 1943-Oct. 1945, WWII
Leland Byers (1920-1978) served in the U.S. Navy, Oct 1941-Dec. 1946, WWII
McKinley Canady (1920-1986), U.S. Army, Dec. 1945-Feb. 1947, WWII
James Carmack (1919-1982), U.S. Navy, Aug. 1944-Feb 1946, WWII
Alfred Castelli (1924-1986), U.S. Army, March 1943-Jan. 1946, WWII
Norman Clay (1909-1977), U.S. Army, June 1943-Nov 1945, WWII
Edward Cooley (1896-1982), U.S. Army, Feb. 1918-Aug. 1919, WWI
Vaughn Curtis (1912-1982), U.S. Army, Feb. 1943-Feb. 1946, WWII
Mary Curtis (1915-1985), Vaughn Curtis’ Spouse
Edward Dahl (1921-1981), U.S. Army /U.S. Air Force, Aug. 1942-July 1953, WWII/Korea
Mike Dangelo (1913-1985), U.S. Army, Sep 1942-Aug 1943, WWII
Charles Davenport (1927-1988), U.S. Army, March 1946-June 1948, WWII
Evelyn Hunt (1904-1984), U.S. Army 28 Feb. 1943-Aug. 1943, WWII
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