ORLAND — “These men have given all in defense of country and flag,” says the headline of the Friday, June 1, 1945 edition of The Angola Herald.
An original copy hangs framed above a tribute to Pvt. Ralph W. Miller at the Orland American Legion. The front-page article tells of 34 Steuben County soldiers killed in various fights in World War II. One of the many faces pictured is Miller’s.
A ceremony dedicating the memorial contribution by Miller’s family will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. at the Orland Legion, 211 S. Bronson St. It follows a graveside service for World War II Navy veteran Alvin Raymond Shaffer at 11 a.m. at Greenlawn Cemetery, Orland, with military honors by the Legion Color Guard and United States Navy Honor Guard.
Miller’s family will attend the afternoon tribute, including his great-great-nephew Don Rumsey and great-great-niece Judy Remington of Three Rivers, Michigan. Rumsey has had Miller’s military medals, the telegram sent to Miller’s mother on July 9, 1944 reporting his death and other mementos for the past 29 years. Before that, Remington stored them. Other family members before them also made a point of keeping the few memories of Miller intact.
“He was never forgotten by the family,” said Remington. “He was discussed, particularly on Memorial Day.”
The family decided to donate the keepsakes to the Orland Legion “instead of just being stashed in a drawer somewhere,” Remington said.
Sons of the American Legion commander Andy Mase, Orland American Legion Auxiliary member Wendy James and other Legion members had the article framed and the medals and letters mounted in a shadow box that hangs on the wall in the Legion lounge. Remington said she appreciates the Legion’s time and expense in her great-great-uncle’s honor.
Miller served in the U.S. Army’s 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Among the medals provided to the family following his death was the World War II Victory Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, granted to those who served in the Armed Forces Dec. 7, 1941 to March 2, 1946.
Miller died May 30, 1944 at 21 years old. He is buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.
“Great-grandma felt that he died with his regiment and should be buried with them,” said Remington.
Miller’s parents, Willis and Blanche Squires Miller, lived in Orland. He had three sisters and three brothers.
Willis and Blanche are buried in the Greenlawn Cemetery, where Shaffer made it his solemn duty for many years to put flags on the graves of veterans.
“He made sure it was done properly,” said James.
“And he knew most of the guys out there,” said Mase. Just two years ago, the elderly Shaffer turned the flag duty over to the Sons of the American Legion. Shaffer worked at several grocery stores in Orland and was a more than 40-year member of the Orland American Legion, at one time serving as its commander.