Annual Memorial Day program held at Veterans Park

Published 2:58 pm Monday, May 27, 2019

VALLEY — Despite temperatures sweltering in the upper 90s, an unusually large crowd was present for Monday’s Memorial Day program at Veterans’ Park in the Langdale community. The program had a remembering the fallen theme with special attention given to local men who died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and in the Afghanistan/Iraq War.

“Our focus today is on these names that appear on the monuments in this park,” said Lanny Bledsoe, commander of American Legion Post 67, Valley. “Ninety-three young men from the Valley went off to war and did not return. Seventy-two of them died in World War II, six in Korea, 14 in Vietnam, and one in Afghanistan. Most of them died in places they’d never heard of before going there in a war, places like Normandy, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Afghanistan. We know these names today because of what happened there. When we remember these men, we need to also remember their families. Their lives were changed forever when they lost a loved one. We should also remember our sons and daughters who are now in harm’s way. We need to pray for their continued safety.”

Bledsoe offered special thanks to Bobby Elliott, who earlier this year stepped aside from being post adjutant after 19 years on the job. 

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“He held this post together,” Bledsoe said. “If it wasn’t for him and the work he did, Post 67 would not likely be active. I want to thank you, Bobby, on having been a good friend to veterans and a good friend to me.”

In introducing Mayor Leonard Riley to speak, Bledsoe thanked him for his support of the post and especially for keeping Veterans’ Park looking nice. He also thanked him for getting the word out that Monday was too plain hot for Legion members to be wearing coats, even if it was Memorial Day. Riley smiled at the remark before turning attention for the purpose of the national holiday.

“We are honoring those men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we have today,” Riley said.

Riley noted that the park today shows three years of landscaping.

“We took out the old shrubbery and put in new plants that are ideal for this climate,” he said. “We will continue doing all we can to make this park a special place.”

Bledsoe recognized Juanita Abney, president of the Post 67 Auxiliary.

“We meet on the first Monday of every month at 1 p.m. at Bradshaw-Chambers County Library,” she said.

Bledsoe said that June 6 will be a special day this year. It will mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the liberation of western Europe from Nazi control. Two local men, Marvin Gilmore and Arnold Sims, both of Lanett, died in the Normandy campaign following D-Day.

“Many young people today have little knowledge of World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam,” Bledsoe said. “That is a shame because those who lived through those times are aging, and it’s up to younger people to carry on. World War II lasted four years, and it cost the lives of 72 young men. It changed their families forever.”

Those who lived through WWII are often called the Greatest Generation. They are in their 90s and are dwindling down.

“We have two World War II veterans, John Lyons and Bernard Paschal, who are active members of our post,” Bledsoe said. “I was 5 years old and growing up in River View when World War II started, but I can well remember how it affected even family in town. All the families in River View talked about family members who were in the service and where they were.”

Post 67 member and Korean War veteran Johnny Miles was joined by other veterans from that war as he read the names of the local soldiers who were killed in the 1950-53 conflict. They are: Stanley Anthony of River View, Harold Calhoun of Shawmut, Waymon Leon Horne and Wesley Johnson, both of Lanett, Billy E. Smith of Cusseta and Roy Lee Fincher of Fairfax.

Post 67 Adjutant Sammy Newton was then called to the lectern to read the names of the 14 young men from the Valley area who died in the Vietnam War. He was joined by 15 local men who are Vietnam veterans. The local men who fell during that conflict are Larry O’Neal Adamson of Fairfax; Richard Louis Barnes, Five Points; Lewis Andrew Callaway III, West Point; Willie James Foster, West Point; Billy Monroe Cross, Fairfax; John Calvin Halsey, West Point; Larry Edwin Hill, West Point; Wallace Sylvester Little, River View; Jerry Rudolph Moon, Lanett; Thomas Larry Senn, Lanett; Wilmer Franklin Simpkins, Fairfax; Roy Edward Thomas, LaFayette, and Roy Delano Watts of Lanett.

Bledsoe said that Newton had served in the U.S. Army infantry during Vietnam and that anyone in the infantry had a very demanding job.

“There is a special place in heaven for those who served in infantry units,” he said.

There’s one monument in the park with just one name on it.

“We regret it has a name on it but thankful there aren’t any more,” Bledsoe said.

That one name is Brandon Hadaway, whose Chinook helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan 12 years ago this coming Thursday.

He had been in the Army for five-and-a-half years and was on his third tour of duty. He left behind a wife and three small children. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star, an Air Medal and a Purple Heart.

“Today we honor the 93 men whose names are on these monuments,” Bledsoe said, “but we also honor those veterans who are here with us today. Thank you for your service. Most veterans return home in good shape, but some do not. Those who are having problems need to know there its help for them.”

Post 67 attempts to reach such local veterans through A Day for the Veteran. This program takes place on a Saturday during the summer months at Valley Community Center. It gives local veterans a chance to have one-on-one meetings with representatives of veterans’ organization such as the VA hospital, Veterans Administration and Vet to Vet.

This year’s Day for the Veteran will be taking place at the Community Center from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 22.