Taps from the heart: Auburn Veterans Day event honors Korean War service

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Bill Thomas. Eugene Alee Cummings. Bob Thomas. Names from long ago. Peering through the veil of 60 years, Rocklin’s Russell Holland remembers them as friends who lost their lives serving their country during the Korean War. Holland, grand marshal for the Auburn Veterans Day parade on Nov. 11, plays bugle with the Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard. When he steps out to play taps, he said he’s thinking of his three departed friends. Invariably, as the simple tune mourns another departed veteran the honor guard takes part in funerals for, Holland’s eyes will well up. Bill Thomas “was always into some kind of mischief,” Holland said. Bob was Bill’s older brother “and kept us in line,” he said. And Eugene was kind of shy. “He was from a poor family and always got the hand-me-downs,” Holland said. “They were friends who didn’t come back and that’s why I pick up my bugle and play taps.” Holland served as a cook in the Navy during the Korean War aboard the USS Ashtabula. The ship fueled destroyers and other naval vessels, earning four battle stars. A retired sheet metal worker now living in Rocklin, Holland is scheduled to serve as grand marshal with Citrus Heights resident Bobby Carr, a Marine who survived the Inchon landing, the recapture of Seoul and the Choisin Reservoir. And he’ll be proudly wearing commemorative medals being given to veterans at the parade remembering what is often termed the Forgotten War. The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, and an armistice was signed July 27, 1953. The U.S. casualty count was 36,000 dead and 103,000 wounded. Cynthia Haynes, Veterans Day committee chairwoman, said Holland exemplifies the people organizers are hoping to honor. “We want to pay tribute to Korean War veterans and the part they played in history,” Haynes said. The parade, one of the biggest in the area, will stop briefly at the newly completed Central Square, where taps will be played at 11 a.m. Nov. 11. The ceremony afterward at the Auburn armory includes a free meal, music and speeches. Hongju Jo, a consul with the Korean Consulate in San Francisco, will be among those scheduled to speak. And Holland will keep his bugle in its case. He’ll ride in a car, leaving younger players from Placer High School to play the mournful notes this time. With the number of World War II and Korean War veterans dying – and the number of surviving families requesting an honor guard presence, Holland will be in a position of honor he’s not used to. Some months, he and the honor guard will present arms and play taps at eight funerals. “Too many,” Holland said, when asked how many times he’s blown taps in recent years. When he does, he digs deep. It’s personal. “It stays there – you can’t get it out of your system,” Holland said. -------------------------------------------- Auburn Veterans Day parade, ceremony When: Parade starts at 10:45 a.m. Nov. 11 along Lincoln Way from Cleveland St. Taps will be played a 11 a.m. at the new Central Square. Parade will proceed along High Street to the Gold Country Fairgrounds. A ceremony and lunch will follow in the National Guard Armory at the fairgrounds. Participation: Call (530) 401-1035 if you wish to participate in the parade. Call (530) 885-6871 for more information on the honor guard.