Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
One hundred years ago, on April 6, 1917, after German attacks on U.S. ships, and with fears of a German alliance with Mexico, the United States entered World War I.
Saturday, more than 100 people turned out to the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Ceremony to remember that day.
The Nevada Department of Veterans Services (NDVS), in partnership with the Nevada Veterans Coalition, hosted a “Remembrance Ceremony” at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley.
The event was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I and the sacrifices made by those who served in uniform. The war claimed 116,516 U.S. soldiers. Of those killed in battle, 195 were Nevadans, and 11 of those are buried at the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery. In all, another 200,000 were wounded which is a casualty rate far greater than WWII.
“I don’t think people really understand the sacrifices of those veterans of World War I and it is very important to do research and study and remember what they did for all of us,” said Col. Kat Miller, the Director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.
The ceremony was highlighted by Howard Rosenberg, a University of Nevada, Reno Foundation professor, who read several letters sent home by soldiers while fighting in Europe.
World War I historian Fred Horlacher told the story of Sgt. Alvin York, known as the greatest American hero of World War I, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for capturing 132 Germans with his unit of seven men.
“Upon returning to his unit,” Horlacher said, “York reported to his brigade commander, Gen. Julian Lindsey, who remarked, ‘Well, York, I hear you captured the whole damn German army.’ York replied, ‘No sir, I only got 132.’”
Horlacher described World War I as a terrible war, saying in the Battle of Somme, British troops lost 60,000 men in one day. By comparison, he said, there were 10,000 soldiers killed during the invasion of Normandy in World War II.
“The participants of World War I were willing to give their all to protect the freedom that we have today, and may we continue to protect our freedom and to promote freedom throughout the world,” Horlacher said.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the keynote speaker, said he was proud of people stand up as one to remember those who sacrificed to fight in World War I.
“I just think as a state we do such an incredible job to honor our veterans, to make this the most veteran friendly state,” Laxalt said.
Laxalt talked of two soldiers who lost their lives fighting in World War I, whose families lived about 400 yards apart in Reno.
“We only had 78,000 folks in our great state back then, and so to have that many die, everyone knew everyone, so everyone was touched by these loss of lives from our great contribution from Nevada,” Laxalt said.
Many of the speakers lamented that World War I gets lost in history, as people remember World War II, Korea and Vietnam and more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There’s so much I did not know about World War I, so if you get the chance, pick up a book and learn more about World War I,” Miller said.
Television personality John Tyson read the poem “In Flanders Field”, one of the most famous literary works to come out of World War I.
Along with the speakers, the Maytan Band, conducted by U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Alan Pefley, played patriotic music, some of it from the World War I era.
Miller said the turnout for the ceremony showed how important the country’s military and veterans are to Nevada.
“Nevadans come from all different walks of life and they have all different types of beliefs, but when it comes to honoring and taking care of our service members and our veterans, I don’t think there is a state that does it better,” she said.
Photos by Robert Perea and Joseph Maino, The Fernley Reporter