Legends – The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

November 9, 2020

Veterans Day is a day dedicated for us to pay our respects to those who have served our country in the military.

Originally the day was called Armistice Day to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. The agreement was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. The name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954, after World War II, to honor all veterans in all wars. A day for everyone to show appreciation to those who served their country, many who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives.

Hometown Hero Banners on Locust Street in DeKalb honor our local heroes, like Russel Breese of DeKalb who served in the Army during World War II, 1945-1946.

World War II found DeKalb County answering the call to duty in many ways. Not only did men enlist in the military, DeKalb’s Wurlitzer Piano factory stopped production of pianos and started top-secret manufacturing of drones and the majority of workers were women who felt it was their duty to help in the war effort.

Not only were women supporting the war from the home front, there were at least 135 who enlisted in various branches of service such as the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) or WACs (Women’s Army Corps.) The most well-known local woman was Esther Mae Nesbitt of Sycamore. She was one of the first WACs to land on Normandy Beach in France. As an intelligence analyst, she was the caretaker of all maps for the European Theater of Operations. Her responsibilities were to keep the war room maps up to date which earned her the French government’s Croix de Guerre medal.  

M. Sgt. Esther Mae Nesbitt of Sycamore was a World War II and Korean War veteran.

One person I always recognize on Veterans Day is a neighbor from my younger days – Sgt. James P. Mason of DeKalb, 101st Airborne Division. On Oct.17, 1968 the helicopter he was in crashed on takeoff from a ship in the South China Sea. A life lost too soon. A son, brother, and friend that is greatly missed.

Sp5 James P. Mason of DeKalb was an Airborne Qualified Radio Operator, shown here with two Vietnam orphans.

Take a few minutes on Veterans Day to honor someone you know who was in the service, past and present. Stroll down the new “Honorary Veterans Way” in DeKalb on Locust Street from First Street to Fourth Street. Honor these heroes in any way you can.

Information provided by Sue Breese