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OPINION: I Regret To Inform You

May 27, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

A great war was raging in 1864 and, as is the case in any war, young men and women would die. Upon learning of the death of Mrs. Bixby's sons, President Abraham Lincoln sent a letter to the grieving mother of five brave and departed patriots. The letter reads as follows:

"Executive Mansion,

Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln."

Other wars followed this nation's terrible Civil War and more brave men and women died. It was decided that a method needed to be established when notifying the family of fallen men and women. The method agreed upon was that of a Western Union telegram message.

Those life-shattering telegrams expressed the regrets of the country and offered as much information as possible regarding the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the lost loved ones. Those telegrams were sent to cities both large and small and to counties both rural and metropolitan. During World War II, those telegrams were sent to families in McDonald County.

For more than four long years men and women calling McDonald County home left their homes with determination in their hearts, a resolve to serve their country and protect the freedoms we now all so dearly cherish. It was during those years that newspapers serving McDonald County reported on the receipt of those somber Western Union telegrams that began with the words, "I regret to inform you."

"Lieut. Clayton Bereman

Reported Killed in War

Mr. and Mrs. T.E. Bereman of the Jane community received a message from the War Department on August 10, reporting the death of their son, First Lieutenant Clayton Bereman, who had been missing in action since July 1944.

Lt. Bereman was a navigator on a B-24 bomber and had been in service since January 1943. It is believed, according to the information received, that with the exception of one, the entire crew was killed instantly when the plane was shot down. The plane was lost while on a bombing mission over Germany.

Lt. Bereman was 27 years of age at the time of his death and had lived in this vicinity most of his life. He attended high school at Pineville and, while in school here, made his home with P.L. Carnell and family. He was married and his wife is now living in Wichita."

The Pineville Democrat, August 23, 1945

"CPL. 'Buster' McGaugh killed in action.

Mrs. Loretta McGaugh Collins of Pineville received a telegram Saturday, April 21, stating that her son, CPL. Fay Eugene 'Buster' McGaugh, 27 had been killed in action in Germany on April 8. He had been in service since September 18, 1942, and went overseas in March 1943. He had been in service in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany.

He received his training at Fort Bliss, Texas, Camp Rucker, Ala., and Camp Stewart, Ga., and went overseas without a furlough after being in training for six months.

Besides his mother, he is survived by five brothers and four sisters: Harvey and Val McGaugh of Anderson; Charley McGaugh of Bremerton, Wash., CPL. Joe A. McGaugh of the armed forces in Canada; Mrs. Grace Stroud, Alhambra, Calif.; Mrs. Eva Wilson, Neosho; Mrs. Ruth Happy and Miss Varina McGaugh, Camden, Mo."

The Pineville Democrat, April 26, 1945

"Anderson Airman Is killed in Action

Parents of Captain Eldon Stratton who downed 3 Jap planes notified of his death.

An Anderson boy, Captain Eldon Stratton, who bagged three Japanese Zeros August 30 in a raid on the Japanese Kahili airdrome on Bougainville in Solomon Islands has been killed in action according to information received Saturday morning by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Stratton, who live four miles northwest of Anderson in the Splitlog community.

Born and reared in the Splitlog community, Straton graduated from the Anderson High School in 1937 and the following year attended the University of Missouri at Columbia. He entered army service early in 1941 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor during its attack on December 7 of that year. For meritorious service during the battle, he was given an honorable mention by the War Department.

During the battle August 30, in which Captain Stratton took part, he narrowly escaped death. Flying Airacobras, he and Flight Officer Cecil Moore of San Antonio, TX. were attacked by Zeros. One of them got on Moore's tail, Stratton shot it down. Then a Zero got on Stratton's tail and Moore shot it down. Afterward, Stratton got two more enemy planes. Finally, his plane was shot down."

The Pineville Democrat, Sept. 9, 1943

"Anderson Man Reported Killed In Action

A report was received Saturday by L.L. Barnes of Anderson that his son, John Barnes, was killed in action.

It is understood that John Barnes who had been in service about two years was a gunner in the air service, that he recently had been based in England. No details however have been received.

He was married to Miss Sammy Lou Chase, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Chase of Tiff City."

The Pineville Democrat, June 8, 1944

"Pineville Soldier Killed On Italian Front

A message from the War Department informs relatives here that PVT. Oral Testerman Jr. was killed in action in Italy on June 3.

He was the son of Orval (Scar) Testerman of Hayward, Calif. and a grandson of Mrs. Cora Bonebrake of Pineville. He had been overseas a year and had served six months in North Africa then went to Italy where he saw action at the Anzio beachhead. It is believed by relatives here that he was killed in the battle for Rome, which was taken on June 4.

PVT. Testerman was born in Pineville and had spent his entire life here before his induction. He attended the Pineville School and was 21 years of age.

Besides the father, survivors also include a brother serving in the Naval Air Corps. in Portland, Ore., and a sister, Betty Lynn Testerman of Hayward, Calif."

The Pineville Democrat, July 6, 1944

There's not much more to be said, but to the families who received those telegrams, I echo General George S. Patton's words: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived." To these five brave men who gave their lives so that I might savor the glowing light of freedom, I say, "Thank you!"

Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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