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Memorial Day About More Than Just Racing

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 27 2012

On Memorial Day, the checkered flag is not the most important flag. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Sometimes, despite their good intentions, people in the racing world get Memorial Day mixed up with the Fourth of July and Veterans Day. Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day as in decorating the graves of those killed in the line of duty, isn’t about those who serve. It’s about those who made the

ultimate sacrifice.

In the cemetery next to my house are several graves of young men from our Inman, Ga., community who died serving their country in World War II.

One tombstone next to the road is for Emerson Callaway, a friend of my father’s who was spent time driving a John Deere B in the fields, signed up for the Marines, was hastily trained at sea then died in the invasion of Peleliu Island.

Several years ago, a fund-raiser was held and a new granite marker put on his grave. On it is the following inscription:

“Emerson grew up in Inman, Ga., the youngest child of Howard Callaway, a noted brick mason and his wife, Elizabeth Johnson Callaway, fondly known as “Miss Lizzie”. After one year at North Georgia College he returned home in June, 1944 and to Fort McPherson in Atlanta for induction. He hoped for the Navy where Ware, a brother, was an officer. Because of heavy casualties in the Pacific ground war, he was assigned to the Marine Corps and sent directly to Camp Pendleton in California for basic training. He completed training aboard ship and was killed in action on the second day of the invasion of Peleliu Island. He was barely 19 years old. He had been a Marine less three months. He never came home after the day of his induction, his family never saw him in uniform.”

Another grave belongs to Merrell C. Mask, who was killed on April 15, 1945 while serving with the Second Infantry Division in Germany.

His brother Joe Mask, recently wrote about his brother:

“Merrell was some kind of man. When we were planting crops he would put a 200-pound sack of fertilizer under each arm and tote them across a plowed field, making it look easy. Nobody wanted to take him on in a scrap.

“He wasn’t afraid of anybody or anything. He didn’t have to go into combat. He was an Army Air Corps military policeman stationed at Ft. Benning in Columbus. He could come home to visit often. But he felt like he wasn’t doing enough. Our family had five brothers in the war and a brother-in-law in a prisoner of war camp….So Merrell figured he ought to go and help out. He volunteered for the Infantry and an overseas assignment.

“He became a rifleman. Mama didn’t want him to volunteer because with the way he was, not scared of anybody or anything, so anxious to do his part in the war, she just felt like he would get killed.

“It was an anxious time for us at home. We listened to the radio and went to the mailbox every day hoping for good news and dreading bad news.

“Then one day we got the telegram. Merrell was 23 years old. That was in April of 1945 when he was killed, not long before the war in Europe ended.

“Mama died in March of 1946, not quite a year later. I think that telegram and having so many boys in the war had a lot to do with her dying when she did.”

Those stories are what Memorial Day is about.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 27 2012


  • Robbie Stuart says:

    Rick, I also thank you for your remarks. My father, a 111 combat mission P-51 pilot of WW2 was lucky to come home, as a lot of his friends & squadron mates, were not, & it are those, that made that ultimate sacrifice we honor this day. While we enjoy this Holiday, always remember “Lest We Forget”
    Best Always

  • Sara Jane Overstreet says:

    Thank you for making the meaning of this holiday clear in a personal way with real stories of real people.