Charlie Wasn't Washed Up...A Veteran's Day Story

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*This story was shared via the Chamber's E-Lert to our members at 11:00am on Thursday, November 11, 2021, in honor of Veteran's Day.  Thanks to all who serve and have served.

By all accounts, “Charlie” was an old man when war broke out, and there wasn’t much of a chance that he would be dispatched to the front lines, seeing as he’d already served for forty years.  Was he washed up?  He didn’t seem to be thinking of that and certainly no one would ever say it. No, it wasn’t a consideration – he was keen to do his duty. So, thanks to rank and position, he caught a military transport to Europe, where he took a ride to the front lines as an observer.  In all its awful details, he watched as the armies of Europe converged – and he tried to learn from the horror.  As he’d learned to do in his father’s Sunbury-based law practice, and throughout his career, he took notes - hoping that he could bring something home to his boys -not just his own son (who also served), but all the boys in Sunbury.  After all, they were his boys – he’d formed the unit in the late seventies, and during peacetime, he’d been able to raise up quite the Guard unit.  
Note-taking and administration had come naturally to Charlie and served him well in life outside of the service.  Before he’d gotten too old for battle, he’d done battle of a different kind - becoming a railroad executive and a public servant, serving in the eighties and nineties as a school board member, a city councilman, and then in a fitting tribute to his father’s law partner and his own mentor (former Lieutenant Governor John Gobin), he was made Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth.
When Charlie arrived home from Europe that day, he was determined to translate his notes into something meaningful – into training.  So, compiling his experiences along the Mexican border and the notes he took that day, Charlie helped to write the book on American trench warfare, and trained not only his boys, (Sunbury’s 12th PA Infantry Regiment) but all those beloved Pennsylvania sons under his command in the 28th PA Infantry Division. This is the story of Charlie’s last gift in military service to the boys he served alongside.  This is the story of Charlie, better known as Major General Charles M. Clement whose service from 1878 to 1918 made him a hero of Sunbury, famous for leading men against Pancho Villa, and the first soldier awarded the Spanish-American War Service Medal. 
You might wonder why this story, of all stories, means something to your Chamber of Commerce on this day.  Consider this: that today we reflect with solemn pride on all those who have served our country – we consider it a “Veteran’s Day”, whose own humble beginnings are the reflection of the significance of “the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918”, when the Armistice was signed ending that Great War that Major General Charles Clement never fought in himself, but yet served…and a consideration that the old general had one more gift to gift with a lasting impact.  
Four years after the armistice, the not-yet retired Major General rallied ten others with a penchant for coalition-building to sign a charter for the Sunbury Businessmen’s Alliance, which we know today as the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce and which last week celebrated the start of our Second Century.
Thanks to all who have served and continue to serve our country and our communities.  As you cross the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge today into Sunbury or walk in our beautiful downtowns, please join me in considering the history of those who have come before us the future we aspire to thanks to their service, and the promise that our own combined experiences may bring prosperity and hope to the Valley.   

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