While attending a meeting at American Legion Post 293 in Cloverdale, Calif., last October, the date beneath a photo that hung at the post caught the attention of Sons of The American Legion (SAL) member Brian Creager. The date was Jan. 18, 1918 - the death of William Russell Ledford, Post 293’s namesake. Creager made note at the meeting that the centennial of Ledford's death was approaching.
On Jan. 18, Legionnaires and SAL members held a ceremony at Ledford's gravesite in Cloverdale Cemetery to honor his World War I service and sacrifice.
“I think it’s important to remember this young man, a country boy from Cloverdale ending up in France,” Creager told the Cloverdale Reveille. “He probably took a stagecoach, or a train, then a ship … his journey alone must have been incredible for a young man back then.”
Ledford was 24 when he died of pneumonia in France. He was a private with the U.S. Army’s Company K, 18th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. The 1st Infantry Division was the first American combat unit sent to France in 1917.
At the end of World War I, Ledford’s remains were shipped back home and buried in Plot No. 49 in the Mount Olive section at Cloverdale Cemetery. He is buried adjacent to his parents, Charles and Susanna Ledford, with the words “Our soldier boy” engraved on his headstone. Ledford’s parents both died in 1926, two years after Post 293 was chartered and named in honor of their son.
Nearly 30 people attend the remembrance ceremony that was organized by Squadron 293, chartered in 2013. The ceremony included community, Post 293 and Squadron 293 members, and members from Sotoyome Post 111 in Healdsburg, whose honor guard rendered full military honors (the firing of three volleys, sounding of Taps and the folding of the American flag). The flag was presented to Post 293 Commander Sandy Kelly because family members of Ledford were not located. The ceremony also included the reading of a proclamation from Cloverdale Mayor Joe Palla and the City Council that recognized and remembered the centennial of Ledford’s death.
“It’s important to honor Ledford not only because he’s Post 293’s namesake and it’s the 100-year anniversary of his death, but because he was a member of our community and served our country,” said Al Delsid, Squadron 293 adjutant and American Legion District 5 commander.