Huisman is speaker at Williams

WILLIAMS – On Monday, Williams American Legion Post 633 welcomed home native son Arvid Huisman who gave the keynote address at Memorial Day services in Williams.

Over the course of the past several days, heavy rains soaked the area with over four inches of rain. With chances of additional precipitation and a saturated ground, the Legion moved the services from the Williams City Park to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, said Don Williams, past Legion Commander.

The cemetery services at Williams and Blairsburg were also cancelled, but Honor Guard and Color Guard ceremonies were held in the church courtyard following the services.

“This is a sacred day set aside to honor those who have made the supreme sacrifice,” said American Legion Post 633 Commander Wayne Wahlert.

“We must not forget,” said Wahlert. “We must always remember”.

“We cannot thank you enough for the beautiful country you have given us,” Chaplain Don W. Williams expressed gratitude to God in the opening prayer. “But we know that freedom comes at a price”.

Legion Commander Wahlert introduced speaker Huisman by listing his career accomplishments.

“Arvid has a great resume or maybe its an obituary,” Wahlert joked of the Hamilton County native, broadcaster, author and Northeast Hamilton High School graduate.

Huisman admitted he was honored to speak but felt unworthy as he had never served in the military.

“I dropped out of college,” said Huisman, who then lost his deferment.

He enlisted in 1968 and along with 200 other young men, stood for physicals at Camp Dodge in Des Moines. Huisman was told he had two bad knees and potato poison.

Poking him in his stomach, the attending doctor told him, “And you’ve got it real bad,” recalled Huisman.

Huisman related the story of his ancestors who came from the Netherlands and Prussia and eventually settled in Iowa. His grandparents had 13 children, one of whom was Arnold Gelder – born in 1919. Arnold and several of his brothers were evetually drafted during World War II, said Huisman.

“Arnold had a premonition that he would not survive the war,” said Huisman. As he departed, Arnold stood on the back of a train car as it passed the family farm and waved good-bye to his family.

On July 22, 1943, Gelder was killed during the invasion of Italy.

“Communications were very slow,” said Huisman of pre-internet days. But eventually, the depot agent from Wellsburg delivered the news.

“We regret to inform you…” recalled Huisman of the words no parent ever wants to hear.

Huisman recalled the impact his Uncle Arnold’s death had on his family over the years.

One instance occurred when he was working in the garden with his mother and they saw a troop train carrying young men being transported to military service in 1956. The sight brought his mother to tears.

After his grandmother died in 1980, a suitcase filled with family memorabilia was discovered. Inside, his grandmother had kept family photos and all the letters her enlisted sons had written to her during their deployment.

Huisman admitted to weeping at the touching testimonials of his uncles – their bravery and their homesickness.

“This brought the war home to me,” he said.

Throughout the years, brave soldiers have served America, said Huisman.

“Cemeteries throughout the world are filled with men and women who gave their all,” he said.

Huisman said he is proud to see younger generations honor those who served.

“General Norman Schwarzkopf said, ‘It doesn’t take a hero to order a man into battle. It takes a hero to go into battle,'” quoted Huisman.

Citing the honor and pride of whose who serve in the military, Huisman recited the verses of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American”.

“I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free,” he said, concluding, “God bless the USA”.

The Community Choir, under the direction of Sally Greenfield, performed “America the Beautiful”, and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” with solos by Charles Johnson, Sam Ose and Rachel Ose.

Following the services, the Color Guard posted the Colors and the Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute in the church courtyard. The ceremony concluded with the playing of “Taps.”