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Field filled with 1,000 flags a fitting tribute for Memorial Day

Barry Ebersberger, who sponsored a flag on behalf of his uncle, veteran Irwin Horst, walked among the 500 flags in the Field of Honor, on display through Memorial Day last year on the Maiden Choice Lane campus of the Charlestown Retirement Community.
Barry Ebersberger, who sponsored a flag on behalf of his uncle, veteran Irwin Horst, walked among the 500 flags in the Field of Honor, on display through Memorial Day last year on the Maiden Choice Lane campus of the Charlestown Retirement Community.(2013 file photo)

Having worked for 40 years in credit management and then part time in various fields until he was 80, one might assume James Wilderson would appreciate the holiday aspect of the Memorial Day weekend.

But for the 90-year-old Army veteran who was part of a Ranger unit that landed on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, "It's a sad day."

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Wilderson and five of his brothers all served in the armed forces during World War II. His older brother, Sam, was listed as killed in action after his B-17 was shot down along the coast of the North Sea.

On Saturday, World War II veterans Wilderson and Catonsville resident William Foreman will be honored during the opening ceremonies for the second annual Field of Honor on the Maiden Choice Lane campus of the Charlestown retirement community.

Foreman was a member of the Montford Point Marines, the first black Marines in the corps' history. In 2012, members of the unit received Congressional Gold Medals, the highest civilian award given by Congress, for their service.

Wilderson, a longtime Arbutus resident who was the youngest of 13 children, received two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars with a "V" for valor, and three presidential citations, along with the theatre ribbons and campaign stars for his service in Europe.

This year's event, again presented by Hubbard Funeral Home, will feature 1,000 3- by 5-foot American flags dedicated to veterans or present members of the military on the 5-acre field near the Charlestown entrance.

"We may not sell 1,000 flags this year, but we will have 1,000 on display," said Daniel Simons, managing partner of the funeral home on Wilkens Avenue that absorbed the cost of approximately 100 flags last year.

Anyone interested in purchasing a flag should call Simons at 410-242-3300.

Last year's event had more than 500 flags on display, more than 400 of which had been purchased for a $35 donation. The event raised more than $8,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and the Charlestown Benevolent Care Fund.

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More than 500 flags had already been sold as of May 13, Simons said, with proceeds going to the Maryland-based Operation Second Chance and the Benevolent Care Fund.

"It's a veterans' tribute, but there is a charity side to it," Simons said.

Simons noted that 275 flags purchased last year had been donated back to the event, which means more money can be donated to the two charities.

"It was wonderful, very picturesque, " said Wilderson on last year's event.

"There's only one thing I think about, my family and my brother," said the father of four, whose wife, Beverly, died 11 years ago.

"I used to go out, get something to eat," said Wilderson on his usual routine after attending the Dewey Lowman American Legion Post's annual morning service at the flagpole in downtown Arbutus on Memorial Day. "But this time, I think I'm coming back home. I get kinda tired."

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Wilderson said he was wounded twice while fighting the Germans in Europe.

"I got a little bit of shrapnel; that wasn't too bad," he said.

The second incident was bad. A full burst of machine gun fire blew off his helmet, driving the front of it into his skull, he said.

"Then, they tried to finish me off, " he said of the December incident in an open field outside of a small town in Germany.

"I stayed down and crawled along this plowed field. They couldn't hit me, but they were tearing up the ground [with bullets]," he said.

His commander told him to stay low, catch his breath, then make a run for it, he said. He did, sprinting through the basement door of a farmhouse as bullets blew the door frame apart.

"That was quite a little experience," he said.

He was hospitalized in England, then sent back just in time for the attack on the Germans' Siegfried Line.

He returned home to work for more than 26 years with Sun Oil Co., then joined Maryland Cup Corp., after Sun Oil moved and he decided he did not want to uproot his family.

In retirement, he has had arm surgery and needs weekly dialysis.

On Monday, he will get a ride for the Memorial Day services in the area.

"It has a little more meaning to me than it does for a lot of people," he said.

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