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Honoring history

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Courtesy photo Christopher King (left) and his senior project mentor Cullen Keith (right), United States Marine Corp veteran and purple heart recipient for his service in the Korean War. The Haughton High School senior compiled a book chronicling his town’s living and deceased veterans.

Amanda Crane

acrane@bossierpress.com

 

A Haughton High School graduate turned his senior project into a four month mission to uncover the history behind his hometown’s heroes.

Christopher King decided to write a book on the military veterans that share the place he calls home. The “Unsung Heroes of Haughton” is a 29-page compilation of war stories and memories gathered by King during interviews with six military veterans.

The main reason he decided to write a book was to share the stories of Americans who

King said the only way to tell those were to go directly to the source.

“Haughton has so much history. A lot of times we don’t find out about someone’s life until we read about it in their obituary and that’s way too late. If I can get their story out, people can read it, see their photos and recognize them.”

King said he did some of his research online, but the rest came straight from the mouths of those he interviewed. After all, who’s better at telling stories of foreign wars than the veterans themselves?

“I had a set of questions that I asked each veteran,” he said. “A lot of them would open up and start talking right away. Sometimes we talked for hours. It got very interesting and I learned a lot.”

King said his interviews with Haughton’s heroes are some of the most memorable moments he’s had in life.

King’s senior project mentor Cullen Keith shared his memorable story with King. Keith, also a graduate of Haughton High School, decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

Keith, who played the trumpet at Haughton High, was invited to join the Marine Corps Band upon completing basic training. His responsibility was “to play Reveille, Retreat, Taps and a chow time tune,” King writes.

On his 20th birthday, Keith was sent to war. He was involved in the historic Korean battle at the Chosin Reservoir and became part of the group now known as the “Frozen Chosin.”

Keith was awarded the Purple Heart in 1951 after his unit was attacked and he sustained a shrapnel injury to his arm. Also featured in his book are James McAnn, U.S. Army; James Keith, U.S. Army; Charles Mueller, U.S. Army; and Harvey Lucore, U.S. Air Force.

King also told stories like the one told by Donald Christ, an 85-year-old Haughton resident who enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the tender age of 16.

“He wasn’t old enough yet but he faked his age as most young people did and had his mom sign permission,” King writes. “The Navy didn’t require a birth certificate, so Christ was now a navy seaman.”

Christ was a LCVP boat, or “P” boat, operator during World War II and his job was to deliver American troops to the beaches of the battle in Okinawa. He also carried about 2,000 sick Chinese citizens in his boat, despite the government’s denial that it had actually occurred.

For his service, the Chinese government allowed him and a select few (five percent of his crew) to enter China and tour the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

“He was one of the first Americans to go in that city,” King said. “His story was so interesting and he had a lot to share.”

King said he dedicated his book to his mother and U.S. Air Force veteran, Caroline, as well as to the heroes who can no longer speak for themselves. The final chapter of his book, entitled “Our Forever Heroes,” lists the veterans who have been laid to rest in Haughton cemeteries. This chapter also provides photos of headstones for veterans who fought in World War I and the Civil War.

King hopes his book will inspire other to get to know their hometown heroes and will provide the community a little history on their hometown heroes – more than what’s told in textbooks.

“Veteran was just a word to me before I started this project,” King said. “I never understood what they endured and I never knew the stories they had to share. They live with these memories everyday. They don’t forget. We shouldn’t forget.”

King plans to further his education at Louisiana State University in Shreveport this fall to pursue a degree in occupational therapy. He is the son of John and Caroline King.

He plans to donate copies of his book to his mentor, and to the Haughton High School JROTC program.

“Take the time to get to know your veterans,” King added. “Make that extra effort to show support. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.”