"I was there for the Cold War as America stood her ground for international democracy. I gave her my Lance and then the mighty Pershing missile, which forced our opponents to the negotiating table. Though I never fired a missile in anger, my Pershing Peacemaker was strategic. I am Persuasive Power for Peace," wrote John McMahon and Patrecia Hollis in their poem, "I Am the Field Artillery."
The piercing phrases of this poem signified the fundamental purpose of the "St. Barbara Dining Out" hosted by the Ozark Chapter of the United States Field Artillery Association, who met recently at the American Legion Post 5 in Jefferson City.
Don Cryderman, a U.S. Army retiree who spent a large part of his military career with the field artillery, encouraged current members to recruit others who have served in field artillery units. He went on to explain the annual dinner is a great opportunity for veterans with similar military backgrounds to come together to share a meal and memories.
Following an introduction of members and guests by Lt. Col. (ret.) Jerry Koestner, the reading of the legend of St. Barbara was conducted by Lt. Col. (ret.) John Walters. As Walters explained, Barbara was murdered by her father, a nobleman of the Roman Empire, after she refused to renounce her Christianity.
Walters noted after she was beheaded, her father "was caught in a sudden violent storm, struck down and consumed by lightning." He added, "As a logical consequence, Barbara came to be regarded as the sainted patroness of those in danger from thunderstorms, fire, explosion . Given the questionable reliability of early cannon misfires it is easy to see why our predecessors sought the protection of Saint Barbara."
The United States Field Artillery Association was founded by two U.S. Army officers in 1910 "(t)o promote the efficiency of the Field Artillery by maintaining its best traditions," noted the association's website. As the years passed, the organization created special awards to recognize service to both the artillery branch and the association.
One member was bestowed an "Honorable Order of St. Barbara" award to replace one previously destroyed in a house fire. The award, the association states, is presented to members "who have demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character; displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence; served the United States Army or Marine Corps Field Artillery with selflessness "
The evening also became an opportunity to toast the memory of those members recently departed, including the late Chester "Kit" Carson Jr. of Springfield, who served 33 years in the Army Reserve and achieved the rank of battalion commander with a field artillery brigade in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
During the latter part of the evening, Carson's wife, Marty, and daughter, Latisha Koetting, were surprised when presented with the Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher. The award is named for Mary Hays McCauly, who delivered pitchers of water and treated the wounded in the scorching heat of the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War.
During the battle, "Molly Pitcher," as McCauly was later described, ignored the threats to her safety and manned a gun on the battlefield. In recognition of her heroic actions, she was personally issued a warrant as a non-commissioned officer by Gen. George Washington.
Koetting, after tearfully receiving the medal, tightly hugged her mother and asserted the memory of her father was alive and well in the thoughts and stories of his fellow field artillery members.
"Thank you all for everything you have done," Koetting said. "I feel like dad is truly here this evening."
For additional information on the U.S. Field Artillery Association, visit www.fieldartillery.org.
Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.