Neton’s Then and Now: The Memory of Arnold F. Beckett — Part 2
In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, Craig was beginning to enjoy peace and prosperity. However, Craig paused to give war hero Arnold Beckett a final welcome home from the South Pacific. The Craig Empire Courier of June 30, 1948 gave the details.
The American Legion Post 62 met his body at the train station and accompanied it to the funeral home. The Rev. A.C. Best of Craig Congregational Church held the service. Alex Anderson sang “Old Rugged Cross” and the “Navy Hymn.” Members of the American Legion attended as a body. The firing squad and color guard added to the solemn occasion, and businesses closed their doors that Friday afternoon.
Since 1948, Beckett’s memory has been preserved and handed on to his nieces and nephews: Arnold Frederick (Ricky) Beckett, Anna Ebener, Bettina Magas, and Foster Beckett. As the children of Stanley Victor, Arnold’s younger brother, they can recall vivid details of an uncle they never met.
For years, Beckett’s parents, I.P. and Louise, maintained a glass display case of Arnold’s war medals, letters and official records. Stories about Arnold and the family during the war were frequently in the air for the children to hear and remember. In a sense, he was still alive through these memories, and the children came to know their uncle.
In these letters the life of a family during World War II comes alive. Young Vic, in a brotherly yet touching way let on how he missed his big brother at the dinner table: “I went deer hunting this year and got a four point buck the first day. He wasn’t a big deer, but just right for eating. I sure wished you could be here to help us eat it.” On Nov. 8, 1943, just six days before his death in the Solomon Islands, Arnold wrote Vic: “I received a paper which told about your game with Junction. It seems the team is far below what it has been in the past; however, they may do alright in the Yampa Valley Conference.” Even from war in the South Pacific, Arnold gave his attention to his little brother’s activities.
However, on Nov. 11, just three days before his death, Arnold reveals the real side of war to his Dad, a veteran of WWI: “The deer hunting must be real good from what you say. Hunting is the main sport out here. Things seem to be going very well too; however, the game in hiding are not deer or dear.”
Today, the meaning of Arnold’s life is an important part of the fabric of the Beckett family. According to his nieces and nephews, his strong Christian faith was a big influence on Vic. This memory motivated young Vic to develop his own faith, which then influenced his children. Strong faith also helped the family accept the sacrifice of his life for our country.
Even though Arnold F. Beckett died 72 years ago we have all benefited from his sacrifice and the preservation of his memory. That’s one life. Think about the hundreds of thousands that died during World War II in the US alone and how each of those lives influenced a family. By learning about one life we can understand how culture and history are shaped by each generation, and how each person lives their life is extremely important.
By January 2016 the new World War II memorial commissioned by the Museum of Northwest Colorado will help us remember the 24 men from Craig who died; not as some faded story, but still alive as a son, a brother, a husband or an uncle never met.
As the United States honors the many individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day, multiple ceremonies in Moffat County will pay tribute as part of the holiday.