When a host of veterans, elected officials and civilians left the historic building Saturday, Oct. 6 the building carried a different name.
What was formerly known as the Longwell Avenue Armory was rededicated in honor of the late Pvt. Jerome L. Day, the first soldier from Carroll County to die in World War I.
“When you think of someone that would give their life, limb or blood to guarantee freedom for our nation, including our allies, it’s truly amazing,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas B. Beyard, the keynote speaker at Saturday’s ceremony. “It’s the greatest example of citizenship mankind has ever known.”
Day served in the H Company of the 29th Division of the U.S. Army, which was deployed from the Westminster Armory, according to a Carroll County Public Library pamphlet.
Brenda Day Atwell was among the mostly veteran audience. She said she is Day’s cousin, and that with her nephew and great-nephew present, three generations of Days were present to remember their ancestor.
“It’s surreal and also a big honor to be here,” she told theTimes. “To memorialize Jerome Day and all the others that gave their lives for us in World War I and all the other wars...
“It’s a good honor for our family name, that it will go on for years.”
The event wasn’t just about honoring the fallen. It was an opportunity to unite different generations.
“I think this is great,” said John Wilcox, a member of the 29th Division Association, who lives in Frederick. “It lets the younger folks know a little bit about history… they don’t get a whole lot of it over in school anymore.”
Westminster City Councilwoman Dr. Mona Becker joined Atwell before the audience to unveil a plaque created in Day’s honor.
“When the Mayor and Common Council were first approached about rededicating our Armory in memory of Private Day, there was unanimous support,” Becker told the crowd, which included Maryland Delegates Susan Krebs and Haven Shoemaker, Republicans representing Carroll County in the state’s House of Delegates.
She quoted President John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter but to live by them.”
Beyard, tasked with describing Day’s life, said he couldn’t without offering some context about the war.
He cited a recent visit to France, as part of a special 100th WWI anniversary, where he walked in the footsteps of soldiers who fought in both world wars.
“We visited Omaha Beach and you just stand there and look and you say, ‘How did these guys do it?’” Beyard told the audience. “It was probably one of the most emotional trips I ever took and I’ve traveled all over the place. (But) It was very emotional to think about these men were thinking, about what they did and the adversity they overcame to be successful.”
Then it was time for a history refresher.
He talked about the challenges associated with the Hindenburg Line, one of the infamous German defense positions.
“The Hindenburg Line was predominantly impenetrable,” he said. “It was lined with trenches, prepared fighting machine gun positions… and these trenches… it’s amazing how they would have dug them, how they would’ve prepared them.”
Then he described Day.
“He came in and he was not a big guy,” Beyard said. “He was only 5’7”, had blue eyes and he was classified as a laborer, which meant he was a hardworking guy.”
Beyard said Day was promoted to private first class, “but interestingly enough, when he went to France he was only private, so I don’t know what happened.”
The private fought through two injuries. He was hit once by shell fragments, he recovered, and then injured again by mustard gas.
After Day was slain, he was laid to rest in a mass American cemetery in France. Beyard visited on the anniversary tour through France, and said the grounds resembled a golf green because they were so well kept.
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An appropriate place for a Carroll County hero to rest.