Church's Christmas musical to honor World War II veterans

December 05, 2003|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - Sunday is the 62nd anniversary of the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, the then home of the Navy's Pacific Fleet in Hawaii.

Those attending the Christmas musical and play Sunday will get an extra reminder of that period in America's history. The program will feature music with a Big Band swing and a play that tells of the sacrifice of our young men and women in World War II, as well as for those in Iraq who will spend Christmas far from home.

The play has a military theme - more by coincidence than planning. Mary Cecil Thompson, one of the coordinators of the annual plays at Christmas and Easter, said the play, "A 1940s Christmas Homecoming," was literally the last one looked at by the church's music director, the Rev. David Woodward and his wife, Bonnie, as they were trying to choose a play for Christmas.


The 35 member choir and seven-member cast will perform the play 6 p.m. Sunday.

Thompson, along with coordinator Mayme Lear, Thompson's daughter, Susan Barrington and other members of the church thought it would be nice to honor World War II veterans who attend the church. They found six men, all of whom will be given special recognition during the performance.

The veterans include Ernest Denny, Robert Kelton, J.C. Keeling, Guilford Waggener, Charley Robinson and Dewey Shepherd. Denny served with the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions beginning in England and served in the occupation force in Berlin.

Kelton was a Marine pilot in the Pacific theater and bombed the various islands the allies used as stepping stones to Japan. Keeling served during World War II, completed basic training in New York and stayed in the service for 27 years, with service in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Waggener served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater and prepared for the invasion of Japan, a fight that was avoided by the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Robinson had just completed his Army basic training when the war came to an end. Shepherd was a Navy aviator and flew off aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean.

The plot line of the play follows a soldier stationed in Italy who was planning to go home for Christmas, but his commanding officer, who is also his father, orders him to go on a secret mission that ends his hopes to be home for the holidays.

When he returns from the secret mission, he finds his friend, also stationed in Italy, has been saved. "As the play progresses, the music becomes heartfelt to reflect the sentiment of the drama," Thompson said. "Some of the most beautiful pieces were written just for this musical. We've tried to make this as realistic as it could be," Thompson said.

To that end, the planners have acquired short-wave radios and uniforms of the time, some of which came from West T. Hill Community Theatre in Danville.

The theme of the play is analogous to the story of Jesus' sacrifice. As the commanding officer sends his son on a secret and dangerous mission,

"Through this touching story, the true meaning of God sending his son to Earth is dramatically illustrated," Thompson said.

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