Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church prepares to honor 366 veterans who served in three major conflicts of the last century.
By Dale Hansen
Over the first half of the 20th century, the Sunday bulletin listed the names of men and women associated with the church who were active members of the military. In this way, the church recognized those members and friends (usually the sons and daughters, possibly a sibling or other relative of a church member) who were serving during three global conflicts—World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
As a retired U.S. Army officer, the son of a World War I veteran, with a half-brother who gave his life in World War II, I have a deep respect for those who have served. Thus, nearly three years ago, with the support of the senior pastor, I began working on a project that would honor those 366 veterans from this church. My wife, Joyce, and Doug Bennett, a fellow Fifth Avenue member and a U.S. Navy veteran, have assisted me in this effort.
In the course of this work, we have amassed a photographic record of these veterans. And we have gathered stories.
Walter Gray Dunnington II served in World War I. Wounded and gassed while directing the fire of a platoon under terrific bombardment, he refused to be relieved of his post. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second highest award for heroism.
Six of our veterans died in World War I. Among them was Wilbert Wallace White, a pilot credited with six aerial victories, who received an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Service Cross (signifying a second award).
Long before he became the country’s top diplomat, John Foster Dulles (the brother of Fifth Avenue member Allen Welsh Dulles, also a veteran) was a commissioned officer with the War Industries Board in World War I. He later served as Secretary of State under President Eisenhower.
George C. Bonnell, the son of our longtime senior pastor John Sutherland Bonnell, was among our World War II veterans. Dr. Bonnell himself was a veteran of the Canadian Army.
On Sunday, Nov. 13, we will dedicate a plaque in Kirkland Chapel that will list all 366 names. We anticipate that descendants of many of these men and women will attend. We invite all members and friends of the congregation to join us on this unique occasion, as we pay tribute to 356 men and women who fought to defend our freedom.
Dale Hansen is the archivist of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and a member of the church since 1995.