Saturday, September 20, 2008
For quite a number of years it has been my belief that most human beings have a deeply-held, innate desire to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. I say most humans because I know there are some people who are so self-centered that they think everything revolves around just them. Fortunately, these types are in the minority although an inordinate number of them tend to get a great deal of attention because of the media-driven pop culture of today.
By contrast, I admire and appreciate those individuals who are not all into themselves and who seek to be part of that bigger reality. That is why Saturday, September 13 was such a gratifying day for me. Before I get into that, though, let me revisit some recent history.
In February of 2002, the Florida Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans held a dedication ceremony near White Springs for the second of our "Flags Across Florida" sites. At the White Springs site, adjacent to I-75 about ten miles north of Lake City, we had put in place a 100-foot flagpole and three marble monuments bearing the names of Confederate soldiers and units and also the names of individuals who had contributed significantly to the Division and to the $40,000 cost of the memorial.
At the ceremony of February 15,2002, with about 500 people in attendance, we heard speeches from national and state SCV dignitaries followed by speeches by a member of the Florida House of Representatives and a retired legislator who has the distinction of being the only person to ever serve as both Speaker of the House and Senate President in the Florida legislature.
Finally, the crowning moment arrived with the raising of a 20 foot by 38 foot Confederate Battle Flag to fly atop the huge flagpole. At that time, it was the largest flying Confederate Battle Flag anywhere in the world.
Since that ceremony back in 2002, millions of vehicles have passed the site and multitudes have observed the marvelous sight of that beautiful and historic flag flying in the Florida sky. Many have been moved to make contributions toward site improvement of the memorial. So many contributed, in fact, that the Florida Division found it necessary to add another monument to the site. This monument, a large obelisk, was put in place earlier this year. This now brings us to September 13.
The monuments, flagpole and spotlights at the White Springs site all sit atop a large concrete slab. It was decided that the memorial would be enhanced by the addition of large ceramic tiles to cover the slab. To cover the entire surface would require several hundred of these tiles and these were recently purchased. The decision was made to hold a work party at the site on September 13 to lay the tile and do general clean-up of the area and the call went out to the various camps of the Florida Division SCV.
Now, I’m sure you remember what happened on September 12th. That was the day that Hurricane Ike chose to slam into the Texas coast and create panic over much of Florida as rumors spread quickly that there was not, nor would there soon be, gasoline available in the state.
Despite all this chaos and panic (especially in the Tallahassee area), when I arrived at the flag site (about a hundred miles east of Tallahassee) Saturday morning, I found almost twenty compatriots representing ten SCV camps already there and working. It was truly a gratifying sight and one that made me feel proud to belong to an organization that had individuals of such character that they would, despite the chaotic gasoline situation, make the special effort to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Actually that was the second sight that morning that touched me and made me feel pride. The first had occurred about a half hour earlier when I, traveling eastbound, saw in the westbound lane of I-10 what appeared to be a convoy of service vehicles (bucket trucks and other work vehicles). At first I wondered what so many were doing on the road so early on a Saturday morning and then I realized that this was a group of good Floridians who were heading west to Texas and Louisiana to help our fellow citizens who had the misfortune of being in the path of Ike. I’ve got to say my eyes misted up as I watched truck after truck after truck pass by filled with fine people who were engaged in a cause bigger than themselves.
Upon arriving at the White Springs site, I learned that some of my SCV compatriots had actually arrived Friday evening and camped out there so they could get started at sunup Saturday morning. I had to return to Tallahassee that afternoon to attend a wedding but I learned that several of our brotherhood also spent Saturday night on-site and worked until mid-afternoon on Sunday. I am truly proud of the dedication and devotion shown by these fine gentlemen.
Sunday evening I spoke by phone with Division Commander Doug Dawson and later Division 4th Lt. Commander Jim Darby to get progress reports. Our group was able to install two new spotlights with protective casings and new wiring, completely tile the entire memorial site and finish a portion of the grouting required for the large tiled area. We also did a general site improvement and landscape clean-up. Altogether a fine effort by a dedicated group.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the compatriots who gave so generously for the Cause. Florida Division Commander Doug Dawson of Camp 285 made the trip all the way across the top of the state from Pensacola and did not get home until Sunday evening. Camp 703 (Gadsden County) had the largest delegation with Division 4th Lt. Cmdr. Jim Darby, Brigade Commander Jamey Creel, Sean Childers, David Brinkley and John Logue all there to work. Brigade Commander Clement Lindsey and son-in-law Skee Hudson made the trip from Trenton representing Camp 770. Brigade Commander A.L. Miller of Camp 746 was not only present but also hosted Commander Dawson for the weekend. Victor Crandall, Commander of Camp 2012 in Perry, and Earl Green of Camp 1463 in Lake City did themselves proud. Max Basford, past commander of Camp 1346, came all the way from Marianna. Brigade Commander Larry Rosenblatt and Camp Commander Thomas Going of Camp 2041 made the westward trek to White Springs and Larry Rowe and Luke Bryant of Camp 2120 were absolutely remarkable as tile-layers (as was Lt. Cmdr. Darby).
When all the inscriptions are finished on the new obelisk, the Division plans to have another ceremony to show-off the new and improved site. Anyone reading this article who has not yet visited the White Springs memorial is invited to stop by the site on your next trip to the area. You can’t miss it as the flagpole with the beautiful Battle Flag flying is right alongside the northbound lane of I-75.
Every time I go there in the future, I will have warm memories of the great work and fine people who were there on this special occasion working for a cause greater than self.