More than 100 years later, family of World War I veteran receives medals, honors on his behalf
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — The sound of sniffles from bittersweet tears filled a small conference room Saturday when the family of the late Harold Ray accepted awards for his service in World War I.
About a dozen of Harold’s family members gathered at Liberty Commons Saturday to accept their beloved vet’s awards from the Veterans Legacy Foundation — more than 100 years after the end of the war in November 1918. John Elskamp, executive director of the Veterans Legacy Foundation and presenter of the awards, said research by the foundation allows veterans and their families to recognize accomplishments and sacrifices and pass on their legacy to future family members.
Harold was born in Mount Pleasant in May 1896 and worked as a car inspector for the Southern Railway before enlisting in the Army in 1918. After boot camp at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., he was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers and then the Transportation Corps.
His daughter, Mildred Livesey, 93, accepted on his behalf the World War I Victory Medal and the N.C. WWI Service Medal. The former, a bronze medal donned with a rainbow ribbon, was created in 1919 to honor those who fought in the first world war. The latter is a bronze medal suspended by a red-white-and-blue-striped ribbon from the North Carolina General Assembly, which voted in 1920 to honor as many veterans as they could with the award bearing the state crest. The state medal was engraved.
Harold’s grandson, Doug Ray, said he was inspired to ensure his grandfather was properly honored after reading an article in the Post about four years ago. Then, another veteran was being honored after his death. Doug said his grandfather never talked much about his experience in the war, but Doug learned about Harold’s experience from his father, including the importance of transporting supplies to soldiers. When resources were scarce, the eldest Ray used pieces of tree limbs, rocks and anything else around to shoot through cannons.
Harold’s family is aware of an injury he experienced before he was discharged, when he was hit by a shrapnel, or stray piece of bullet or ammunition from an explosion. Doug said that injury resulted in the installation of a metal plate in his head. Harold died in 1978.
“The family never knew that these weren’t given to him,” Doug said. “During the presentation, I heard things that are now true and part of public record that I had only heard through family members and my own dad. It brought tears to my eyes, and everyone was willing to come. This is a big thing. It’s 103 years after the war.”
Denise Daugherty, Livesey’s daughter and Harold’s granddaughter, said family members knew Harold did something great in the war, but it was meaningful to learn the full story during the medal presentation.
“This brings our family all together and it makes me feel like granddaddy’s here,” she said.
Rowan County Commissioner Judy Klusman was also in attendance Saturday.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.