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Remembering Some of Emmitsburg's
Honored Veterans

J. Edward Houck
Former Mayor of Emmitsburg

My son Joe and I sat talking the other day about our ancestors and did they take part in any of the past wars that the United States was involved. He is a real Civil War Buff and reads anything about that war that he can get his hands on. We started talking about the first time Veterans Day was celebrated. It all began as Armistice Day in 1918 when peace was declared at the end of World War I. This was November 11, 1918 and peace was declared at 11am. on that date.

This brought us to the many men from families in Emmitsburg and whose names are now memorialized on the Doughboy standing at the West end of Main Street.

Ben Topper, Francis X. Elder, Owen Adelberger,
Webb Felix, George Wagerman, Louis Stoner

Then we talked about my Dads first cousin, Francis X. Elder, who served in the Army and was sent to France. He was killed during the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne on October 11, 1918 just one month before the end of the war. The American Legion Post #121 in Emmitsburg was named in memory of him as he was the first from the town to be killed. Just a few days later another of Dads first cousins, Charles F. Gelwicks, met his death in the same battle of Meuse-Argonne on October 14, 1918. They served in the same Maryland unit. We also discovered that Dads younger brother, Bernard T. Houck, also met his death on October 11, 1918 serving in the same Maryland unit as the other two mentioned above. Bernard, got his parents permission and joined the army at age 16 and became a Corporal prior to his being killed at age 17 years.

This information all came out of the genealogy of our Family History that I have been gathering for over the past 15 years. From this study, cousins and other family members have sent information that they had found over the years. My cousin Elaine sent me a copy of a letter that was sent by Francis (Frank) X. Elder to his mother from France prior to the big battle that was coming. I present this as a model of the character of the men we lost in the fight for Freedom and Liberty around the world.

Dearest Momma,

As I am about to enter the big fight for Democracy it is my desire whilst I have the opportunity to pencil you a few lines briefly and bid you, Popa and all a sincere farewell and may our dear and most precious God always protect you in this life and knowing this I will die cheerfully for a good cause, if it be His holy will, otherwise it will be the happiest moment of my life when I can once more kiss those motherly lips. If the worst happens to me take the news courageously be brave as I am going into it cheerfully and resign to what ever my fate may be.

If I come through O.K. I will write at once and let you know.

Hoping for the best and trusting I will see you all on earth or that we will meet in Heaven.

I am you most affectionate and loving son.


(signed) Private Frank X. Elder

After we entered World War II, Armistice Day was to be called Veterans Day to honor all those that served in any of the branches of our Armed Forces. In reviewing some of the findings in our family genealogy, I have found men from all branches of the Family Tree that have served in battles from the Revolution to Freedom for Iraq. I found a cousin, General Smallwood, that fought beside General Washington and led many men from Maryland.

Many Elders, Houcks, Rosensteels, Gelwicks, Olingers, Peters and many more branches in the family have given their energy and their lives for freedom for all in the United States and around the world. During the War between the States, there were family members that fought on both sides. We have records of some men from the family tree branches that died in Andersonville Prison, Gettysburg, The Valley Campaign of Virginia and the final fights for Richmond.

A cousin of my mother, Agnes Rosensteel, collected a large amount of Army guns and gear after the Battle at Gettysburg and they can now be seen in the Battlefield Museum in Gettysburg. They were given to the U. S. Government to display and take care of for those visitors that wished to see them.

A brother of my mother, Dick Rosensteel, was one of those men that served with distinction. He was an uncle and a friend and along with many, many other men and women from Emmitsburg went to serve his country. He went to training and then shipped to England and became part of General Eisenhower's "D" day invasion forces. He landed in France on June 6th, 1944 and was wounded that day. Days later he went back to the front and again was wounded. Again, when he was ready, he was sent back to the front. and in another battle he was wounded for a third time.. He completed his tour of duty and was returned home after the war ended. He never wanted to talk of his experiences but received awards from the Army for his honorable service.

I wanted to write this piece to thank all those men and women that lost a portion of their lifetime and many their life in defending freedom around the world. They all should be considered Heroes. May there be less need for Veterans in the future as we hope and strive for a lasting Peace. With our vigilance and prayers, this could be possible.

Revolutionary War Honor Roll
Civil War Honor Roll
World War I Honor Roll
World War II Honor Roll

Read more articles by Mayor Houck

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