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Orange to honor 39 killed in WWI battle

Newburgh Free Academy football players hold a poster

Newburgh Free Academy football players hold a poster advertising the Orange County Veterans Memorial Day, scheduled for Saturday, along with coach Andy Toback (back left) and Newburgh Enlarged City School District athletic director Jack Mager (back right). A similar version of the poster can be found at Photo Credit: Courtesy of Newburgh Free Academy

On Saturday, the community is invited to honor veterans by increasing awareness of Sept. 29, 1918, the day exactly 94 years earlier in which 39 men from Orange County died in the battle of the Hindenburg Line during World War I.

The event, called Orange County Veterans Memorial Day, is sponsored by the county, the Purple Heart Hall of Honor Inc. and the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.

The festivities will begin at 10 a.m. at the Orange County Veterans Cemetery in Goshen. At 1 p.m., the event will continue at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, 321 S. Williams St., in Newburgh.

The event will feature art exhibits, USO entertainment, military artifacts, re-enactors, a photography wall of honor and refreshments for those in attendance. In addition, guest speaker Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston, a retired Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, will address the crowd.

An excerpt from the book "Encyclopedia of Newburgh Free Academy Football," by Richard E. Durbin, a National Board-certified social studies teacher, helps explain part of the historical story behind the men killed in that battle.

It is believed by some that the term "Goldbacks" became widely accepted as the NFA team name largely in part because of the impact a World War I soldier made by taking his NFA jersey to war with him.

When the young man, Walter D. Allison, headed to war, it is believed that he took his NFA jersey with him to keep him warm and remind him of home. Allison was killed at the Battle of Hindenburg Line.

Later, another soldier was in need of clothing and found the shirt in a box of unclaimed clothing. After picking up the blue sweater with a yellow "N" -- which was similar to the kind of sweater worn by his football team back home in Newburgh -- the man inquired about the sweater and was told of Allison's story and realized that he was in fact from Newburgh.

Throughout the years, the jersey has been kept in honor of Allison near the athletic offices at Newburgh Free Academy.

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