Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


May 1, 2013

Hoosier soil on veterans’ graves

Greensburg — Butch Kennedy and his son Shane did something rather marvelous. When the two were going to Europe some years ago they dug up some Indiana earth from around his land at Smith’s Crossing and took it with them to Europe.

Remembering how hard it is sometimes to get past luggage inspectors, I asked how he was able to get the Hoosier earth past them. He answered, “I just put it in baggies in my luggage and there was nothing said.”

Shane is a lieutenant in the United States Navy but has also served in the Army and Air Force. Butch served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era.

I didn’t ask when they took the earth to Europe but it was most likely before 9/11. Anyhow, he got it into France and as he and Shane were walking through one of the large American veteran cemeteries they put a pinch of Indiana earth on each of the graves of the men from Indiana.

“It didn’t matter that nobody knew about it, I didn’t feel that I was making some grand gesture, I just wanted to do it and my son was happy to help me. Maybe it didn’t mean anything to anybody else but it meant something to Shane and me.”

Butch served as a machinist mate in M division on the USS Kearsarge (CVS 33) from 1964 through 1968 during the war in Vietnam. The Kearsarge has quite a history when you consider that a total of five ships have had that name during the history of this country. The first Kearsarge (named for Mount Kearsarge in Wilmot, New Hampshire, and Warner, New Hampshire) was launched in 1861 and got the best of the Confederate raider CSS Alabama during the Civil War. In 1894 that Kersarge was wrecked. The second was in World War I and World War II and sold for scrap in 1955. The third was renamed the Hornet before it was launched. The fourth (Butch’s ship) was launched in 1945, served in the Korean War and Vietnam War and scrapped in 1974. The fifth, commissioned in 1993, is still in active service.

The museum Butch has created is at Smith Crossing, on the left on 46 going toward Batesville. When I visited his museum last week I first noticed a Garland Milling Co. flour sack, a big business in Decatur County at one time.

The next thing I saw was a huge picture, at least two yards long, of the Odd Fellows complex in Greensburg taken when the buildings were completed and people lived there. I’ve seen smaller versions, and post cards of the same picture but this one is enormous and clear.

The picture of the Westport Covered Bridge is a beauty but, by far, his collection of World War I and World War II “Yard Longs,” are the most impressive items in his collection. Yard longs are those 36 inch by 8 inch pictures of servicemen and women who have finished their basic training. They were, I think, most common during World War I and World War II. Butch has collected many from all over the United States.

He has 16 pictures or diagrams of camps such as Camp Lee, Va./ Sandusky, Ohio/ Camp Wallace, Texas/ Camp Edward, Mass./ Camp MacArthur, Calif./ and more, including the prison camp Andersonville.

Andersonville was a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War, where 13,000 men (of approximately 45,000 Union prisoners) died of starvation, malnutrition, diarrhea or diseases.

Butch has pictures of Germans in World War I as well as English, Turkish and Japanese of that war. He has pictures of General Lee but none (that I could see) of General Grant. Don’t mistake that for any sympathy with the Confederates though. He collects what he can find.

There are several pictures of General Pershing, and many in the space he has set aside for the Navy of the USS Maine, other ships and sailors, the troop ship Mt. Vernon and the Nurses Corps.

There’s no question that Butch’s site at Smith’s Crossing would be an excellent place for groups to visit if they give him advance notice. He specifically mentioned that he’d be glad to show it to interested veterans or veteran groups.

Next week, I’ll tell you something else about Burch’s collection, yes, something incredibly historic, that’s in his building. Also about the man that he met not long ago and whose story is like none other.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the Chautauqua at the High School Auditorium tomorrow evening. I know it’s going to be ever so grand.


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