Hero is defined as “one with great courage.”
I was recently privileged to witness the honoring of a hero from World War I, Floyd Cline, by his family in Long Branch.
The entire cemetery had been decorated for the special tribute. It was an incredible sight — an entire cemetery covered in colorful flower arrangements.
Reportedly, on July 23, 1918, Cline dove from a cliff in France, to pull as many as 20 wounded soldiers from a river, all the while under heavy, enemy machine-gun fire. His commanding officer had ordered the men to retreat before Cline dove into the water.
Cline, a Wyoming County native, knew the right thing to do was to save as many of his fellow soldiers as possible.
Cline was put up for court martial for disobeying the order to retreat. His captain, however, said Cline’s actions were the “greatest displays of bravery” he’d ever witnessed. The charges were dismissed.
In 1919, Cline was contacted about traveling to Washington, D.C. to receive his Distinguished Service Cross. He did not respond to any of the correspondence. Family members share stories that Cline was upset that he’d been made to stand at attention for several hours upon returning to the United States and that he’d been charged 60 cents for a bowl of oyster stew. He termed the price “highway robbery” and refused to return to the city he thought the offender.
Saving the lives of those men was more important to Cline than any medal — at least to Cline.
Ninety-three years later, on an overcast Sunday afternoon, five generations of Cline’s family gathered at his grave site as the local roadway was named to pay tribute to the native son — believed to be the first West Virginian to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military honor. Wyoming County Rt. 0061/07 was named the U.S. Army Private Floyd Cline Memorial Highway by Senate Concurrent Resolution 49.
It is an incredible story and shows the type of people who make their home in Wyoming County.
Since that day, I’ve been thinking there are many heroes among us here in Wyoming County. Everyday heroes, who want no recognition and who do the right thing simply because it is right, not for recognition or public honors. I’m talking about people who show incredible courage under the pressures of everyday life.
The mother or father who fights with a vengeance at the cancer attacking her/his very existence.
The teenager, surrounded by those doing drugs or drinking alcohol, who simply says, “No thanks.”
The pastor, maybe looking forward to time away with his own family, who volunteers to sit with a dying congregation member, or scared family member, or counsel a couple in trouble.
The teacher, discouraged by a growing lack of student discipline and parental assistance, puts aside his/her own feelings to tutor a child in need.
The fireman or police officer who forgets his/her own safety to protect the lives of others.
In Wyoming County, we have many such heroes.
It is the people of Wyoming County who make it great and make me proud to call this beautiful place home.