Memorial Day Tribute to Homer’s Fallen

2018 Memorial Day Speech by Col (ret) Kevin M. Walsh

Thank You Homer for participating today and honoring the memory of those who gave their lives in service to our nation.  Memorial Day is intended to honor service men and women who never came home.  Some don’t come home as a result of being killed in combat, others as a result of accidents or illnesses that, unfortunately, are also a part of the risk of serving our nation.  Since the end of the Civil war over 150 ago years Homer has faithfully honored our fallen. If you asked someone from Homer for the top things they remember about Homer, you will inevitably hear about the Memorial Day parade and ceremonies.

Our Memorial Day remembrance really has two levels.  We remember all of the fallen from each war.  The 360,000 Union dead from the Civil War, the 116,500 Americans lost in WWI, the 405,000 from WW2, the 36,500 from Korea, the 58,200 from Vietnam and the 6700 to date lost in the War on Terror.  But for us, in Homer, we also remember them as individuals who left us to serve our nation and didn’t return to us.

As I researched our local losses in preparation for speaking today I discovered that the actual individual names that the Village and Town of Homer lost are not easy to find, my thanks to my wife Kim Walsh, Ed Raus, Fran Riter and Jim Heath for helping with the research to find these men.  Most of our names of killed in action are combined within the larger Cortland County list of names on the monuments at the Court House.  As we honor the memory of Homer citizens who never came home, I wanted to try to remember the name of each individual.  That is how their families, neighbors and friends from Homer would have remembered them, not as a number, but as someone with a name and a life before they sacrificed it for us.  Each of these individual losses were felt by our community, maybe they were a paperboy or played ball for Homer or people knew their parents or a brother or sister.  It is here at the hometown level that the sacrifice of these individual lives and futures are most felt and best remembered.

During the Civil War approximately 287 Homer men served, approximately 20 were killed in action and another 37 died of wounds or disease. These are the names I was able to find so far…….

Pvt Frederick Alderman         Pvt Lyman Pender                      Sgt Charles Stickney

Pvt Willis Babcock                   Pvt Theodore Pender                  Pvt William Toppin

Pvt Charles Baker                     Pvt Charles Pratt                        Pvt Peter York

Sgt William Galpin                   Lt Col Eugene Rawson

Pvt Asa Moore                          Pvt Martin Rose

Pvt Henry Murray                    Pvt Morris Shattuck

Pvt John Bowen                       Pvt James Smith


Cortland County lost approximately 43 individuals during WWI

So far I have identified three individuals lost from Homer:

Pvt Mark McCauliffe, KIA Sep 29, 1918, Pvt McCauliffe was 26. Pvt McCauliffe is remembered by his name on the Homer Burns-MCaulliffe American Legion Post 465.

Pvt. John Bruce Gillette, Died October 27, 1918. Pvt Gillette was 22. 

Pvt William Burns, Pvt Burns is also remembered by the Homer Post.  Billy Burns was 24 when was killed during the Battle of Belleau Wood which was largely fought by the US Marine Corps.  Pvt Burns was a member of the US Army’s 17th Field Artillery Regiment, he is buried at the US cemetery at Belleau Wood.  Each year the US Marine Corps sends a contingent of Marines to honor their fallen at Belleau Wood.  This year, as a part of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood, Marine Captain Zach Phelps, a 2006 graduate of Homer High School was chosen to be a part of the Marine Corps delegation.  Captain Phelps will be individually honoring the sacrifice of Pvt Burns at the Belleau Wood cemetery.  One Homer resident honoring the memory of another Homer resident half a world away.

During WW2 our County lost approximately 122 killed. Of those 122 Homer lost approximately 11 men:

Pvt Arthur W. Baker, Pvt Baker was 19.

SSgt Robert G. Berry killed in Action, September 25, 1944. SSgt Berry was 21. He was awarded the Silver Star.

PFC Frank C. Casterline, Pvt Casterline was 39. 

Pvt Stanley R. Parks, Pvt Parks was 40. 

Pvt Raymond A. Porter, Pvt Porter was 21.

Pfc Harold A. Pursey, Pfc Pursey landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944 and was killed 12 days later. Pvt Pursey was 22.

SSgt Patrick T. Riley killed 3 Oct 1944, SSgt Riley was 22. 

Cpl Charles Spengler enlisted in the Air Corps in 1939, he was in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked in 1941.  He was captured and held in a Japanese POW Camp until 1944 when he was put on the “Hell Ships”.  These were Japanese ships that were taking American POW’s to Japan to be used in forced labor in Japanese mines.  Prisoners were kept in the holds of the ships and provided very little food and water.  The ships were not marked as carrying POW’s and Cpl Spenglers ship the Arisan Maru was sunk Oct 24, 1944, Cpl Spengler was killed in this action. Cpl Spengler was 44.

Cpl Kenneth J. Zimmerman, was on an aircraft that crashed into the Pacific Ocean, 7 June 1945.  Cpl Zimmerman was 28. 

QM Kenneth Eugene Cottom, died 9 Oct 1943. QM Cottom was 21.

Technician 5th Grade George Henry Hutchings, Jr died 17 May 1945, Tech Hutchings  was 35.

The Korean War saw Cortland County lose about 16 individuals, Homer lost one……

PFC Robert William Hickman KIA 25 Jan 1951.  PFC Hickman was 22.

In Vietnam Cortland County lost about 20 killed.  Homer lost approximately 4 of those…..

SP4 Clifford Roy Osterhoudt was killed in action 14 March 1971.  Specialist Osterhoudt was 21. 

Marine Cpl Ronald Francis Linscum was killed in action 28 December 1969.  Cpl Linscum was 19.

Marine PFC Clifford Lyman Eaton was killed in action 5 June 1968.  PFC Eaton was 21. 

Navy Corpsman Robert Victor Moore killed in action 18 July 1969. Corpsman Moore was 21.

In Iraq we lost……

PFC Shawn Patrick Falter killed in action 20 Jan 2007. Shawn was 25. 

I know these names were not all, I am going to continue to put together as complete a list of Homers fallen as I can.  It is important that our nation honor those who sacrificed everything.  It is especially important that WE as a community remember and honor the memory of each individual and their families who lived among us and sacrificed the entire lives and futures.   Thank You Homer for always remembering and honoring them and supporting their families.  Thank You Homer.