MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — In Martinsburg, surviving families of some very special World War I veterans are actively saluting their service generations later.
They are carrying on the very special legacy and memory of men in uniform. The Marshall-Holley-Mason American Legion auxiliary unit honors five Berkeley County army soldiers who died serving with the American expeditionary forces during World War I. Linda Ballard recalls their surviving moms crossing the Atlantic in 1930 to visit the gravesites of their sons.
“Things were segregated and the white mothers and wives – they traveled on luxury liners. The African- American women had to travel on steamers,” she said.
In their memory, Ballard and other Legion members have devoted volunteers at the Martinsburg Veterans Administration hospital.
“We go to the VA center to help the men,” Gloria Lindsey with the auxiliary said. “We collect funds and pass out blankets around Christmas time.”
The memory of these war heroes is a driving force to promote their legacy in and around Martinsburg.
“The organization has been very inspirational for me, both in the service to the community as a whole and the veterans in particular,” Brenda Branson, another person with the auxiliary, said.
Brenda McCray has devoted countless days volunteering to drive the shuttle bus at the Martinsburg VA hospita,l where she bonds with the vets and their families.
“Five minutes going around the hospital and it seems like it was two hours, but just what that I learned from them is so meaningful,” McCray explained.
This month marks 91 years since the surviving mothers made that overseas trip on steamers to pay their graveside respects to their war hero sons. Auxiliary 102 is carrying on its mission to support our veterans. The auxiliary is proudly celebrating its eightieth year in Martinsburg.