Sharon Myers, president of the William Wetmore Chapter Daughters of 1812, presented a 15 star U.S. flag to Summit County Executive Russ Pry to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of the War of 1812 on Monday June 18, 2012 at the Veteran's Service Commission in Akron.
On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a congressional declaration of war against England. Known as America's second War of Independence, it lasted almost three years. Some call it America's least understood, and most forgotten war. Now, thanks to the efforts of Myers and her group of 30 volunteers, whose mission is to locate, document and mark the 350 graves of War of 1812 veterans in Summit County, those soldiers will be remembered and honored.
Emcee Pry gave detailed accounts of several aspects of the war, such as the overthrow of British ally and Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh who had attacked American settlers in 1813. U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's defeat of the British on Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 while flying a battle flag with the words, "Don't give up the ship," and his famous message to Army General William Henry Harrison, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." And the failed British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore in 1814 from which the inspiration came to Francis Scott Key to write the poem, "Defense of Fort McHenry" which later became the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner. At Noon, at the ceremony, the 15 star flag was raised by War of 1812 re-enactor Ted Dudra. The Summit County Bicentennial Bell was rung and the National Anthem was sung.
Since 2009, Myer's group has been preserving history and promoting patriotism while striving to increase awareness of this three-year war. In the summer of 2011, the Wetmore chapter set out on a project to identify the known War of 1812 veteran's graves in Summit County. So far about 50 of the broken or missing headstones have been replaced around the county with new grave markers obtained from the VA at no charge. "I'm just so honored to be a part of this," Myers said.
Laura Dunlop, Korean War vet and past commander of American Legion Wendell Wilkie Post 19 in Akron was in attendance and said after the ceremony, "It's good to see this remembrance going on and the celebrating of it. I'm proud of Russ Pry for putting this together." Akron mayor Don Plusquellic, when asked to share his thoughts on the event, stated, "We have to learn from history so as not to repeat our past mistakes. You can't always pick and choose your battles. The economy drove a lot of wars in the past. One might argue that goes on now. Keeping the memories alive is important."
Dudra, a retired teacher with the Plain local school system in Canton, has been a Civil War re-enactor for more than two decades. Two years ago he added War of 1812 re-enactor to the list and has recently started involvement with the Revolutionary War. At the conclusion of the ceremony, where he raised the 15 star commemorative flag, he said, "Of the 350 graves found, five of them are here in Green. It's outstanding they took the time to do 1812, it's a forgotten war. The U.S. was only about 30 years old when it declared war on the world's best equipped army and navy. England wanted us back. She had colonies all over the globe. I'm elated to see they recognized the bicentennial anniversary of this war."