Batavia's history of honoring veterans

  • A Memorial Day parade marches through downtown Batavia in 1949.

    A Memorial Day parade marches through downtown Batavia in 1949. Courtesy of Sammi King

  • Mark Meyer of the Batavia Overseas Post 1197 VFW stands at attention during a Memorial Day ceremony dedicating a "Freedom Tree" at the post. The ash tree is a direct offspring from one at the birthplace of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    Mark Meyer of the Batavia Overseas Post 1197 VFW stands at attention during a Memorial Day ceremony dedicating a "Freedom Tree" at the post. The ash tree is a direct offspring from one at the birthplace of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Posted5/20/2015 3:02 PM

In 1941, 731 Batavians signed on to serve the war effort. When they returned home after World War II, some were injured, some were broken, and 31 lost their lives on the battlefield.

On July 27, 1946, Batavia had a city celebration with parade that included bands, floats and 400 of the returning veterans.

 

To honor those brave men and women, the city renamed Batavia Field, north of Illinois Avenue, as "Memorial Field."

"My dad was a mechanic and gunner with the Navy Air Command, flying PBX planes along the Panama Canal," said Mark Meyer of Batavia.

Marvin Meyer's unit flew both sides of the canal, protecting from the Japanese on one side and the Germans on the other.

"With their protection, our ships could get through the canal safely," Meyer said.

World War II veterans and new recruits were called to serve in the Korean War. Sadly, seven Batavians lost their lives in that war.

There was no parade for the returning veterans, although the return of POW SFC Scotty McLain did result in one of Batavia's biggest celebrations ever.

In the 1950s, patriotism was strong with most Batavians starting Memorial Day with the Memorial Day parade. The parade route always ended at one of the city cemeteries, east side one year, west side the next. In addition to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, the parade was filled with service organizations, Scout groups and schoolchildren, all waving flags.

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There was always a short service at the river, where gold star mothers dropped wreaths in memoriam. In the schools, not only did the students recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day, they also practiced what to do in an attack, from getting under desks to running home from school to be protected by family.

The veterans of World War II and the Korean War were the fathers and mothers of my generation. They had a major impact on us.

"My father's service definitely impacted my decision to sign up for Vietnam," Mark Meyer said.

Meyer planned to go into the Navy like his dad, but, at the last minute he switched to the Air Force. He served two tours of duty with the 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

When he returned, there were no parades. In fact, Vietnam veterans were often treated badly upon return, he said.

"I was able to get through that time with my faith and the help of my parents and my brothers."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Returning home isn't easy for servicemen and women. It is a very difficult time.

"I'm not sure if anyone really survives a war," Meyer said. "Most have been bruised emotionally by the war, and some suffered bigger bruises than others. Some didn't come back at all. The POWs and the MIAs, those are the real heroes."

Batavia has a rich and honored tradition of gathering on Memorial Day to remember those who lost their lives in these wars and subsequent wars.

We have the opportunity to honor these men and women by attending the Memorial Day service at 10 a.m. Monday, May 25, at the Batavia VFW, 645 S. River St.

The sacrifices made 70 years ago made our world a better place.

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