Eight years ago, several of my siblings and I purchased a Legacy Stone at the Veteran's Memorial "The Highground" in Neillsville, WI to honor my uncle Don McAleavey, a former infantryman who served in combat in Korea. I coordinated with Don's children and The Highground staff to insure we crafted language they wanted engraved on the Legacy Stone so it would accurately define Don's life. The family chose the following words - Faith, Family and Country in that order.
The idea we had for the ceremony was to surprise Don but it soon became clear we couldn't construct a believable story to get him from the Milwaukee area to Neillsville, WI. So, his family shared the news about the event with him.
On the day of the ceremony, Don arrived on a beautiful sunny day with many of his extended family in tow. Several of my family members were also present and together we spent the day honoring Don's military service. As part of the ceremony, a stone plaque with Don's military service dates and the words Faith, Family and Country engraved on it was placed on a wall with the Legacy Stones of other Korean War veterans. Don's spirits were lifted because of all of the support he received from the attendees and finally he received some recognition for his sacrifices during the Korean War. By all accounts, my uncle left Neillsville a changed man.
The Korean War has been referred to as the Forgotten War and I knew from chats with Don over the years that he was bothered by the fact he and his fellow soldiers had been ignored for all of the sacrifices they made much like the way Vietnam veterans feel today. The Korean war started five years after the end of the big war, World War II, and the American people were not ready for another war as they supposedly had just been through the war that was going to end all wars. As a result, the American people largely ignored the returning Korean War vets and they quietly assimilated back into society and went about their lives. Their service was forgotten and thus the reference to Korea as being the Forgotten War.
Several million people watched the tenth anniversary of 9/1/2001 and I watched also as James Taylor and Paul Simon independently played and sang mournful songs on their acoustic guitars. I was so moved by their performances that I retreated to my music room and wrote a melancholic melody on my acoustic guitar. I shared the melody with my co-writer/lyricist Ricki E. Bellos and my story about our Neillsville tribute for my uncle. She crafted the lyrics and title to the song which became "Forgotten No More." Jon Statham from Nashville recorded the song and instrumentation and production was done by Jim Hendrick from Appleton, WI.
My sister, Colleen Miller, and I have worked on several music videos together that I must add I couldn't have done any of them without her support and artistic talents. I approached her about using the new song in a music video and she enthusiastically committed to the project. Together we gathered photos taken at the Neillsville event by Colleen and some cousins, pictures of Don's military history provided by the McAleavey family, and pictures from the Internet of Korean War Memorials and with Jim Hendrick we produced the "Forgotten No More" music video funded by Dave Miller and Omni Paint and Glass Company. We put it on YouTube and to date over 10,600 people have viewed it.
On July 26, 2019, my uncle slipped and fell in his apartment and lost his final battle. He was buried with full military honors on Wednesday July 31, 2019. As I passed through the funeral receiving line, every one of Don's sons and his daughter thanked me for the part I played in the Neillsville tribute and the "Forgotten No More" video. I was humbled by their kind words. To a person, they all said what a positive impact the Neillsville experience and the "Forgotten No More" video had on the final eight years of Don's life.
In the church at the podium on the altar of the Catholic Mass, Don Jr. delivered the eulogy and started it with Faith, Family and Country, the three words engraved on Don McAleavey's Legacy Stone in Neillsville, WI. Don Jr. went on to say how those words defined his father's life and how the Neillsville experience uplifted his father's spirits and positively changed the final years of his life. I and my sister Colleen were proud of the part we played in this labor of love.
Later at the cemetery, we heard a mournful song played on the bagpipes by a musician wearing kilts followed by a rifle volley and the highly emotional presentation of the American flag to Don Jr. while a military honor guard played Taps on the bugle. One of the riflemen who had fired his weapon in the volley gathered the spent shells and presented three of them to Don Jr. telling the attendees the spent shells represented Don's brave service during war time.
While observing this very emotional event, we watched as the honor guards folded the flag making 13 folds each one representing something significant, which is explained in the following link (www.AmericanFlags.com) and then they presented the flag to the senior member of Don's family. It was almost a religious experience witnessing this, and at that moment, I shuddered at the thought of those who deface or burn our flag. I thought if those who participated in those dishonorable activities could have switched places with me or any of the family members gathered at that time, and felt the love and emotion in that lonely cemetery directed towards a respected war veteran, just maybe we'd have fewer of these anti-American acts in our society.
We all had an opportunity to sprinkle holy water on Don's casket and with some prompting by a brother, I too sprinkled holy water on Don's casket and then handed the holy water dispenser to the next in line. My thoughts turned to Don because I knew this was my final moment with him. I crisply stood at attention and issued a final salute to my warrior uncle Don because he truly deserved it. Moments later, Don's life on this earth was over and he was put in the ground. But his memory will live on forever with those who loved him and in Neillsville WI on a Legacy Stone in the park section created specifically for Korean War veterans and in the music video, "Forgotten No More - A Salute to Korean War Veterans." The video can be viewed on www.youtube.com by inserting the aforementioned title in their search engine.