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Camp Stewart vet recalls Flemington Presbyterian
Liberty Lore
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In August 1994, the pastor of the historic Flemington Presbyterian Church received a letter from Mr. Charles Pierce, a gentleman in his 80s living in Buffalo, N.Y. After reading the letter printed in Footnotes from Flemington, I called and asked permission to print it for all of Liberty County to read.

August 16, 1994
Dear Sir:

My very good friend Hershel Wilkinson, who had gone through high school with me, joined the National Guard for a year of training back in 1940. I was already a sergeant and he was a private. I had talked him into this. We left Buffalo, N.Y. in February of 1941 with the 209th Coast Artillery, Anti-Aircraft which was made up of 2,000 men from Buffalo and 2,000 from Rochester. We arrived at Camp Stewart on Feb. 21. Our training was very tough, but we needed it as the war later proved.
One Sunday, Hershel and I got tired of the Sunday services at camp so we went hunting for a church. The results were that we went over the fields back of the camp and followed an old road and came out just a short distance from your church. Each Sunday after that, we made our way along this lane and came out just to the left of the church. Then one Sunday, we came into the church after refreshing ourselves at the cool horse trough which was fed by the coolest water in all the South. Boy, was it good after coming over a hot lane. When the people began to come, we would make our way into the church.
I could tell you what happened one Sunday. We were met at the church door by the pastor and were asked if we would help them out. We still didn’t know just how we were going to help, but looking at each other we said “yes.” It was then that the pastor told us what he wanted us to do. It was to sing. The two of us thought that we would help in the choir. That would be alright.
That was not the case. We were the choir for the day. He told us to follow him down the center aisle when the organ started to play. We looked around at each other and almost laughed. That moment passed quickly as we were on our way down to the front of the church. It was so different up at the front of the church. The windows let in the morning sun light, a gentle breeze was in all of the church.
I had forgotten to tell you that both Hershel and I were Presbyterians in the very beginning, for that is what our families were. My mother and dad were of the faith. I was born on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York state. While my very good friend came from Oklahoma … or was it Kansas? Both of us were from Buffalo.
We enjoyed going to Church on the dusty road. My church at home was in the country, a large building 150 years old at the time and it was with a white steeple that reached up to the sky.
I almost forgot the bell and the bell cord which hung through a hole in the ceiling of the entry way. This bell called out the services and deaths in the community. You could tell by the ringing if it was a male of female who died. Then last of all, the age of the person. My grandmother would send me over to the church to find out the name of the one who had gone on.
As I say, I loved the church and the people in it. That is the same for Flemington Presbyterian Church. After that Sunday upfront, we were invited to have dinner with the families of some of the congregation.
A few weeks after our first sing, the Army was beginning to break up the original gang that came down to Stewart. My very good friend was sent to Newfoundland and I was sent to North Ireland in April 1942. That distant place called Pearl Harbor had changed all our lives. Hershel was gone four years and came back to the States for another year. I had the tour of Europe and North Africa before I came home after five years away.
All during this period, I never forgot the church with its tall steeple and the horse trough and the nice, cool water that came out of the ground. I have seen many churches in Europe, but none made such an impression in my mind as your church in Flemington. I have never forgotten it even in the cold rainy nights at Cassino or in our push up the Rhone Valley to the cold frozen earth of Haguenau, France. Having come up into Europe the southern way, it was just as dangerous as it was to the North on “D” Day. Men were killed, but you never heard about it and it is a shame. We are just happy to be here.
I have paid several visits to Fort Stewart when coming back from Florida. Each time, I enjoy the visit and pass the houses where Hershel and I had Sunday dinner with people we enjoyed. The last time I was in the area, I saw the front porches where we used to sit and enjoy a Sunday dinner conversation with the man of the house. It was great. It was just like being home. I enjoyed the gentle breeze that traveled across the fields.
I have eaten Sunday dinner in North Africa, Italy and France and enjoyed every minute of it, by my thoughts were of the dirt road that led up to the church and beyond and for the dust separating every step. That was HOME.
Fifty-four years have come and gone. After the War, I lost track of Hershel. Life was good to us and the good Lord was very kind to see that we came through that mess without getting hurt.
I can still smell the pine smoke which came from the cabins just off from the Camp in days gone by. They are gone just like many of the other things about Hinesville but that is to be expected.
I want to thank the congregation for opening up their hearts to us. Many of the older generation must now be gone. Sundays are just the same, the warm morning sun rising behind the tall steeple of the Flemington Church. The morning air of Georgia made sweet by the pines and other woods, the soft breezes blowing over the fields and the heavy dew still on the grasses and wood flowers as two boys made their way to church on a Sunday morning.
I live by the things that Mother Nature put on the Earth and the beautiful pictures that she paints every morning for our benefit. Most of the people are too dumb to see that beauty which is put here for us.
Thank you for reading the ramblings of an older man. You see, I am now in my 80s and the Lord has been good to me to let me stay around so long. Thank you.

Charles S. Pierce
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