On Christmas Day 2020, the colorized photograph above appeared in my Facebook feed. I knew immediately that I was looking at something extraordinary.
These were American soldiers fighting during World War II.
|The Thunderbirds route to Rome|
There could be no shortcuts and no compromise in training. McClain is the reason the citizen-soldiers of Oklahoma became such excellent fighting men.
|Normandy, where Gen. McLain distinguished himself as commander of the 90th Infantry Division|
|Maj. Gen. McLain, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lt. Gen. William Simpson at Julich Fortress, Nov. 1944|
"General McLain in his person, elevated and gave great distinction to the term ‘citizen soldier, ” said General George C. Marshall in 1949.
|Tulsa McLain High School|
For McLain's distinguished service in the war, he was appointed a brigadier general in the Regular Army. Later, he became the comptroller of the United States Army and was appointed the army's first statutory comptroller general. At the time of his death in 1954, he served on President Dwight D. Eisenhower's National Security Training Commission.
Raymond Stallings McLain died at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., on December 14, 1954, at 64.
|Lieutenant General McLain's ribbon bar:|
|Tree Tops - The Home of Raymond McLain - Hand-painted for a Mrs. Akright Christmas Card|
According to the official biography of General McClain, written by Raymond's daughter, Dr. Betty McLain Belvin, Tree Tops House played a vital role in the formation of McLain's leadership skills and ultimate success on the battlefield during World War II. Betty Belvin writes:
"McLain would study military problems long into the night at Tree Tops, at first by gaslight and then by windmill-generated electric light. He talked over historic battles with his friends (the other officers who owned homes at Reveille Retreat), knowing full well that rumors of genocide and of madman Adolf Hitler's theats in Mein Kampf would have to be reckoned with."
Tree Tops was McLain's dream home, reminding him of his roots in Kentucky. But after World War II, when the Army asked General McLain to serve as the United States Army's comptroller with the rank of Brigadier General in the Regular Army, McLain decided to sell his log home and move to Washington D.C. The McLain family sold Tree Tops to the Akright family.Though seven Oklahoma National Guard officers built their homes in the wooded area the men called Reveille Retreat, I will highlight only two more.
|Col. Bolend, Chief Surgeon, 45th Infantry|
|A red rose by the long gravel drive that leads down to Cherry Hollow in Edmond, Oklahoma.|
|Dormar House, now maintained with exquisite country beauty by Fred Cherry, the author's uncle.|
|A back bedroom on the second floor of Dormar House (now called Cherry Hollow)|
|The Burlesons eating dinner at Cherry Hollow on Labor Day, 2020|
As 2020 comes to a close and we begin another year, I am grateful for God's grace in being a Christian, an Oklahoman, an American, a historian, and someone who never takes for granted the people of our past, the special moments of our present, and the marvelous hope for a bright future because our God is good and gracious all the time.
I leave you with a memorable violin solo played for us on the second floor of the Dormar House by Fred Cherry as we ate dinner there on Labor Day 2020. As you listen to Fred Cherry play, say a prayer for all the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces. As I listen, I'll give thanks to God for all those who've risked their lives that Americans might be able to live in a country of peace and liberty. Thank you, General McLain, General Markham, Colonel Bolend, and all the other Oklahoma National Guard officers (Thunderbirds) who built your homes at Reveille Retreat. Thank you for defeating the Nazis during World War II that we might enjoy a peaceful, family dinner at the place you once called home.