Hobson Monument in Charleston

We celebrated the official birth of the United States on July 4. It was our 234th birthday.

Across the land, this holiday is always celebrated by picnics, fireworks and speeches. And ceremonies of all kinds.

But there are also monuments across the country which remind us that this birthday is not celebrated without cost. Most of these commemorate the men who lost their lives on foreign battle fields, or even here at home during our Civil War.

But there are few which record tragedies mostly forgotten. Tragedies which brought broken hearts, devastated lives, and tremendous sadness to families and friends.

There is a monument at the Battery in Charleston which denotes one such tragedy. On the night of April 26, 1952, the navy destroyer USS Hobson was participating in training maneuvers out of Charleston in the mid-Atlantic. It was escorting the carrier USS Wasp. They collided and the Hobson was cut in half. It sunk within four minutes, losing 176 of its crew. Their names and hometowns are on that monument. Also, a stone from each of the 38 states yielding sons to this loss combine to help make up the base.

I visited this monument on this 4th of July weekend. One such name that I saw was Cecil Mauzy from the little west Kentucky burg of Draksboro, Kentucky. I thought of the tremendous pain and heartache this must have caused his family when they received that fateful call. Seeing that name etched in the stone made me wonder. Does anyone come to this marker anymore? Does anyone study the names? Does anyone give reverence to these many lives that died serving their country, just as surely as if they had died in the Battle of Guadalcanal or some other epic battle spot. So, I went on line. Mauzy is an unusual name for west Kentucky. I found Bill Mauzy in the village of Beechmont, not far from Drakesboro. I called him. He was Cecil Mauzy’s brother, some five years younger. His brother had lied about his age, joining the Navy at the end of World War II, and had remained in the service. No doubt Cecil’s family was relieved and happy at the conclusion of that war, thinking he was at last out of harm’s way.

Bill Mauzy told me that his mother—now dead—never got over this tragedy which seared its way through this humble family of America 58 years ago. I expressed my condolences to him. It was all I could say. And thank you. Thank you for what your family did for my country.

There were 175 more names on that monument. One hundred and seventy five more vacant chairs at the tables; empty beds; lost hopes and dreams fondly remembered in fading gray photographs in which long ago smiles still water the eyes. The thought weighs down upon the soul like a leaden winter sky.

So, as we yearly celebrate our country’s birthday, we must honor not only those who helped give this country birth – the Jeffersons, Franklins, Washingtons and Hancocks – but also those who have kept it alive. The famous and not so famous. Mostly, the not so famous.

Thousands, perhaps millions, of teaming tourists have streamed by that monument on the Battery in Charleston. It occasionally will receive a glance, maybe even a quick read of the larger print. But no one ever studies the names, the hometowns, the real life tears and suffering these 176 fading names represent. We hurry along with squealing kids with ice cream cones, friends to meet, sites to see. Freedoms to enjoy.

So, I paused and peered at the name. Cecil Mauzy. I wondered what he was like. Was he handsome or plain? Big ears and crooked teeth or silver screen jaw and hair? Were his last words spoken in calm conversation during his last supper that fateful evening born on that same west Kentucky accent as mine? In that we share the kindred circle.

USS Hobson At Sail

Here’s to you Cecil. Couldst thou know? And wouldst us all. How many of our meager names, 58 years from our demise, will stop the feet of rank strangers a thousand miles from home and be thoughtfully mouthed with reverence as the name upon the stone is studied? Your name. Your life. Your immortality.

Let us remember the monuments across this great land which speak for the dead. Look at the hungry sea and the rolling lands and commemorate all those who have died there, and in dying helped afford us the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. It’s a good way to celebrate the 4th of July. It’s a good way to celebrate every holiday. In fact, it’s something we should think of every day.