The “Hiker Monument” on the grounds of the State House was a site of remembrance Sunday morning as a small contingent gathered to honor the service of the Veterans of the Spanish-American War and other conflicts.
The nearly hourlong memorial service marked the conclusion of the Sons of Spanish War Veterans’ three-day convention held in Columbia over the weekend. The 78th National Convention attracted war descendents and other supporters of veterans. On Sunday the group paid tribute to military volunteers from all branches of the Armed Forces who served from 1898-1902.
“It’s just the fact that they went,” said Kenneth Robison, who lives in Chapin and is the national president of the Sons of Spanish War Veterans. The group held held the memorial service with its auxiliary group, the Daughters of ’98.
The Spanish-American War grew out a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States following American intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The Sons of Spanish-American War Veterans was organized in 1927 to perpetuate the memories of those who served in that war and the resulting Philippine Insurrection and the China Relief Expedition.
“I’d like for people to remember that they served and not just forget them,” said Robison, who was at times emotional on Sunday and noted the Spanish American War was the only conflict in American history that fielded an entirely volunteer force.
This weekend’s convention attracted visitors from across the county and featured an opening ceremony, museum visits and tours, Sunday memorial service and installation of officers. The gathering around the Spanish-American War monument included a bugle call, poetry readings from the period, tributes to soldiers and a brief history of the war and the contributions made by South Carolina residents.
“The Spanish-American War is a time of reunification. And it is also a time that is horribly neglected today,” Joe Long, curator of education at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, said at Sunday’s gathering. “If these traditions and values (of service) are going to be passed down, they are going to have to be done by us.”
Sunday’s guests included J. Wesley McBryant of Indiana, whose father served in the Spanish-American War. McBryant, who traveled to Columbia with his two sons for the weekend convention, said it’s important that today’s generation not forget the services of those those fought for their freedoms.
“It’s people who defended their liberty,” he said.
Next year’s national convention is scheduled for Saratoga Springs, N.Y.