A time to remember
Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember America's service men and women who have died in war, will be celebrated Monday, May 29. As it has been written regarding war, "All gave some, some gave all." The day is a tribute to the brave men and women who left their homes and families and made the ultimate sacrifice.
Among the thousands of young men who gave their lives in Korea were three friends, all from the Manila area. William Sterling "Man" Grable, John Carrel Lasater, and Gerald Laverne "Rubber Joe" Perry. They were all born the same year, 1932. When they left the cotton fields of Blackwater and Sixteen communities to serve their country, they had no way of knowing they would never return.
They were among the 33,665 Americans killed in action in Korea. Another 3,275 Americans died from non hostile causes and 92,134 Americans were wounded. Statistics show another 8,176 are still missing.
The three young men still have family members in the area. Even though it has been over a half century, families still have vivid memories of their beloved brothers who left so many years ago and lost their lives in Korea.
The three are buried near each other in the Manila Cemetery.
PFC Army William Sterling Grable
William Sterling Grable's nickname was "Man." He was born on July 23, 1932, the son of Bessie and Dewey Grable. He grew up around the Sixteen Community and Blackwater where he attended school.
Family members remember him to be a happy person who loved life. He helped with the land they farmed.
His sister said he used mules to farm for his mom and dad and later used a small tractor. His mom would sell eggs for him so he could go to town and see at movie at Manila on Saturday nights.
Grable was called to the service in the fall of 1952. He was killed in Korea on Feb. 16, 1953.
He told his family when he left for Korea, he would not see them again. Even with those feelings, he went to serve his country.
Grable has six living sisters, Alburta Crews of Caraway, Norma Despain of Manila, Elwanda McMullen of Alabama, Charlene of Alabama, Shelby Norman of Bernie, Mo., and Thelma Keen of Memphis.
PFC Army Gerald Laverne Perry
Gerald Laverne Perry was known by his family and friends as Rubber Joe. He was born Feb. 19, 1932 and died Sept. 20, 1951. He was killed in Korea at Heartbreak Ridge.
Perry was the son of Robert Grover, Sr. and Lena Ella Perry.
He still has family members and friends in the area who have very fond memories of him.
"Everyone who met him expressed what a kind, gentle and caring young man he was," sister Pauline Ware said. "One night my brother borrowed our sister's car to go to the late movie at Manila. We had a police officer tell us a story about seeing the car stopped on the side of the road. He said he asked Laverne if he was having car trouble. He answered no, it was such a beautiful night I just wanted to stop and thank God for making it. We had no problem believing that story because we knew our brother."
Perry attended elementary school at Sixteen and high school at Manila.
His older brother, the late Robert Grover, Jr. "Bud" Perry, served in the Army during World War II and remained in the Army following the war.
Another brother, Billy Wayne Perry, lives in Leachville. His sisters are Imogene Powell of Michigan, Pauline Marie Ware of Manila and Maxine Rowley of Monette.
Perry was a member of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He received the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Korean Service Medal, The United Nation's Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Medal.
"My mother always said when he left for induction to the Army, he turned and saluted her and said, 'I'll see you tonight,'" Mrs. Ware said. "We really expected him to come home again before he left, but that was the last time she saw him. He was sent to Hawaii and then on to Korea."
His brother Bill said Laverne volunteered for the Army. He was in about six months when he was killed.
Bill said he can remember the recruiting sergeant coming to pick Laverne up.
"He got into the car at Shrables' Grocery (a popular country store near their home)," Bill said. "He went to San Francisco, to Hawaii and then on to Korea. I got one letter from him while he was in Hawaii. He was training for a truck driver. He was in a wreck and in the hospital for several weeks. After he recovered from the wreck he went on to Korea with the 2nd Division. He never got a furlough home."
PVC Army John Carrel Lasater
John Lasater was born March 24, 1932 and died Aug. 13, 1950 in Korea.
He was the son of T.G. and Marie Lasater. His brothers are Hugh Lasater (deceased), Donald and Douglas Lasater both of Manila, and Roger Lasater (deceased). His sisters are Yvonne Williams, Mary Brown (deceased), Wanda Lee Meacham (deceased) and Wilma Lou Lasater (deceased).
John also volunteered to join the Army. His father was a World War I veteran and served in France. Three of John's brothers also served in the military. Hugh was in the Navy, Douglas and Donald were both in the Army.
The family has a very good record of John's short time in the military through letters his mother kept throughout the years. The letters, along with pictures, report cards from his days at Blackwater School, and other keepsakes, are now kept in a scrapbook to be passed down as part family history.
Lasater was with the Co D 15th Armed Inf. Btn. at Camp Chaffee. He went on to Ft. Lewis. The last letter the family received from him informed them that he knew he was going overseas but did not know where "yet." His last letter is dated July 14, 1950.
It was a difficult time for the family because Lasater was listed as missing in action for 13 months.
After 13 months, Lasater's body was escorted home to Manila where his funeral was held at Blackwater Baptist Church and he was buried with military honors at Manila Cemetery in November 1951.
His mother received a letter from one of John's Army friends who was back in Springfield, Ill., following the war. He told the family he was with John until he was killed the last of August 1950. He said he was killed knocking out a machine gun nest. He said they had made a promise to each other if one got home and the other didn't, they would write to the family. His friend was among the thousands who were wounded in Korea.
These three friends gave their all and in their short lives made a difference. The Korean War has sometimes been called "The Forgotten War." Those who lost their lives have never been forgotten by family and friends.
(Editor's note: The story of these three young men, and one I did two years ago at a Lost Cane Reunion on Pvt. Army Robert Sivage from the Lost Cane area, also a casualty of the Korean War, led me to go to the Internet for information on others of the area who gave their all. According to the statistics found, 461 Arkansans lost their lives in Korea. A list by counties showed 19 from Craighead County and 14 from Mississippi County. In addition to the four mentioned, from Mississippi County other names included: Capt. Army William Boyd; Sgt. Army G.D Hollins; Pvt. Army Billy Hopper; PFC Army Charles Parish; PFC Army Elden Rhodes; Cpt. Army William Sanders; PVC Army Charles Sauer; SFC Army Charles Tennison; Sgt. Army Louis Webb; 1Lt. Air Force Robert Arthur Olsen; and PFC Marines James Filmore Wood.
From Craighead County -- Cpt. Army Charles E. Beaty; Pvt. Army Duane Brown; Cpl Army Leland Brown; Sgt. Army Cecil Dye; Pvt. Army George Felkon; Pvt. Army Charles Fletcher; 2Lt. Army Charles Hinson; SCF Army Ralph Lillard; Cpl Army Thomas Long; PFC Army Max Parson; CPL. Army Crist W. Smith; Cpl. Army Billy J. Stotts; PFC Army Robert Taylor; PFC Army Carl While; PFC Army Elvis White; CPL Marines, Lake City, Jimmie Strickland; CPL Marines, Calvin Paul Barnett; PFC Marines Richard Tucker; PFC Marines, Black Oak, Ralph James Gipson.)