Mormon Battalion Historic Site Annual Flag Day Celebration

| July 4, 2022 | 0 Comments

The 2022 Mormon Battalion Historic Site Flag Day Celebration was held on June 22, 2022.  Brent Top, president of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in San Diego, served as master of ceremonies for this event, which included performances by the Marine Band San Diego, conducted by Gunnery Sargent Megan Harper, and a special musical number, “O America,” performed by LiAnatacia Teague and accompanied by JD Dumas.

Present for the day’s ceremonies were Honorable Judge Clifford Wallace of the US 9th District Court of Appeals;  Retired Superior Court Judge Timothy Towers; Martha Anderson, First Regent of the San Diego chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; Holly Shaffner from Honor Flight San Diego; Becky Davies, communications director of the San Diego Communications Council; Fred Grand, president of Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce, representatives from the Military Order of World Wars, as well as other government, religious, and civic leaders. 

Brent Top was generous with his introductions to honor our flag, our country, these honorees, and all who have and all who are serving in the military. The celebration began with the retiring and posting of the colors by the Mormon Battalion Color Guard. 

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Colonel Jody Hanson, United States Marine Corp, retired and the invocation was offered by Jack Shirley, president of the Carlsbad Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The celebration was a landmark year for the Mormon Battalion Historic Site for two important reasons.  It is the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon Battalion in San Diego.  And this is the first time that all the honorees at the annual Flag Day commemoration were women. 

The theme of the Flag Day celebration was “When Duty Calls,” honoring four modern-day heroes who, like the Mormon Battalion women, demonstrated faith, sacrifice, and service when duty called them—both in the military and in life.

Keynote speaker for the event was Professor Robert C. Freeman of Brigham Young University. Freeman spent much of his youth and early adult life in California. He is also an attorney and is a graduate of Western State University College of Law in Orange County and a member of the California Bar Association. He is also a recipient of the Freedom Foundations Valley Forge Award.

Beginning in the year 2000, and in partnership with the Library of Congress National Veteran’s History Project, Freeman has worked tirelessly to help preserve the voices America’s veterans however and wherever he can.

He has published eight book works about wartime experiences of veteran’s as well as producing several documentaries about veteran experiences particularly of individuals of faith.

Freeman helped with the recognition of the four female honorees, which included sharing their military experiences, providing each of them with a Mormon Battalion medallion, a pin, and a certificate recognizing them as Honorary Members of the Mormon Battalion.

Winona Ruth Anderson Gunther will be 103 on her next birthday.  She says that the secret to a long life has been “lots of laughs.” 

From a very early age, Gunther knew she wanted to serve in the military. She attended boot camp in the Bronx and from there she was sent by train to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Balboa Park in San Diego. After her hospital training, she was sent to the Corona CA Naval hospital where she worked with patients who had malaria and jungle rot.

Gunther saw many Marines and Navy seaman with horrible injuries.  Many of the marines injured in the Battle of Iwo Jima were treated at the hospital where she worked.

Although she gained a great deal from her service in the military, it could be said that the most important thing she “gained” from her service was her husband Herb.  They had met at a dance in December 1944.  Herb Gunther was an athletic specialist in the Navy who helped rehabilitate wounded vets.  They were married June 10, 1945—as Ruth says, “a marriage made in heaven.  The war ended and Ruth was discharged in September.

Mary Lou Clough Voight was born and raised in Iowa with All-American values of faith, family, patriotism and service.  Education was important to her.  She went to school in a one-room schoolhouse along with her brothers and sisters. She graduated from high school at 16, attended college, and began teaching at 18.

Seeing the military as an opportunity to broaden her horizons, she enlisted in the Marine Corp in July 1951.  Basic training was at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina. She was assigned to the Marine Corp Depot of Supply in San Francisco.  While in San Francisco, she was tested for Officer Candidate School and received the highest score ever recorded.  After completing the Marine Corp Officer Candidate School, she was commissioned a 2nd Lt.  She served as a disbursement officer in Cherry Point, NC and then as the assistant inspector instructor at the USMC Reserve Center in Worcester, MA.  She married Lt. Wilson Voigt and after being promoted to Captain she was assigned to San Diego.  She commanded the Women Marine Company. 

She has received numerous awards and certificates of appreciation.  She was inducted to the Military Women’s Memorial in Washington DC and participated in the 2021 Honor Flight. 

After graduating from her small-town Pennsylvania high school, Mary Ann Elizabeth Smith Harrington wanted to do something important in her life.  She didn’t want to be like most of the young women she knew who had no ambitions or dreams for anything beyond the narrow world in which they lived. Harrington wanted more than that.

Harrington learned that not everything in life—and in the military—works out the way you want.  She joined the Women’s Army Corp to become a nurse.  During her basic training—which she says she “absolutely loved”—the Korean War broke out. Her desire to be a nurse was thwarted because, with the war, the Army brought in so many registered nurses and doctors who filled all the open medical positions. 

 After basic training, she was assigned to train as a cryptographer—learning how to code and decode messages.  Harrington says this was the beginning of one of the most interesting careers of her life.  Army training was a learning ground for Harrington, not just in her new field, but for life. 

While stationed in California, Harrington married.  At the time the Women’s Army Corp was fine with its personnel marrying, but pregnancy would end your Army career.  She left active duty to become a mother to two wonderful children.

After her children were grown and then in her 40s Harrington joined the Army National Guard where she rode in tanks, like the women of the Mormon Battalion, braved sandstorms in the desert.  She received her rifle certification at Camp Pendleton and ultimately her sharpshooter badge.

Her military service prepared her for dealing with life’s challenges in many, many ways. After a successful career in the banking industry, Harrington spends her time today with her two children, 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.  She turns 91 in July.

Elizabeth Theresa Macres Fishle was unable to attend the ceremonies. She was just released from the hospital after catching COVID on a recent trip to Washington DC to attend the installation of the first woman commandant of the United States Coast Guard—the first woman ever to lead a branch of the military

In January 1944 Fishle shipped out on a troop train with 11 other women recruits from the west coast headed for Florida where they would process and train.  After basic training, Fishle ended up in accounting school in Brooklyn for six months.  It was a difficult course and Fishle was the youngest woman in the school. She was assigned to Seattle with the official job classification of 3rd Class Storekeeper, USCG SPAR. 

A remarkable woman who has influenced countless lives, Fishle will be 99 at her next birthday. 

At the end of the presentations, “Walk Tall You Are a Daughter of God” was performed by Olivia Gordon and Rachel Godfrey.  They were accompanied by Sister Madelyn Jensen.  They all serve at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Pictured left to right is Bob Freeman, Winona Ruth Anderson Gunther, Mary Lou Voight and Mary Ann Elizabeth Smith Harrington.

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