Lanett and Valley host Veterans Day programs

Published 9:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2022

By Charlotte Reames and Wayne Clark

The City of Lanett held a Veterans Day ceremony recognizing veterans with keynote speaker Ret. Sgt. Norman Lipscomb. During the ceremony, the Lanett City Council recognized veterans who are city employees and citizens in the audience. 

“We’re here today to honor our service members and to remember the sacrifices they have made and the courage it takes to defend honor, dignity and country,” said Mayor Jamie Heard as he welcomed the attendees. “You have served your nation with great dignity, and we can never say it enough for your service in war and in peace, thank you and God bless each of you.”

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During his speech, Lipscomb spoke about his time in the military and the life of a fellow veteran. Lipscomb, born at EAMC-Lanier hospital, grew up in Michigan. He returned for his senior year to play football at West Point High School. After graduating, he joined the US Army Security Agency. 

“Little did I know that the Army Security Agency was going to be a big stepping stone for the rest of my entire life,” Lipscomb said.

The ASA, Lipscomb said, opened up to a lot of opportunities for him. After he retired from the military, he began working for Michigan State Police. He worked in the Criminal Investigation Division, and later, on government security detail.

“I’ve had an opportunity to rub shoulders and touch wings with at least four presidents,” Lipscomb said. “Again, from my humble beginnings, that was outstanding.”

Lipscomb honored the life of his friend the late Robert “Thunder” Thornton. Thornton was a member of the first Force Reconnaissance Battalion. The two met while working with Michigan State Police while Thornton worked as an undercover officer.

“As my Michigan State career went on, I met a guy who had a much, much, much, much more interesting story than mine ever could be,” Lipscomb said. “Every time I talked to him, he had another story even better than the story that he had told before.”

Lipscomb also spoke about how politics and religion were topics that are often avoided even though they govern people more than anything else in their lives.

“I think the reason that we don’t talk about them is because we forget that we need to respect the other person’s opinions. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree, we understand that that person has a right — right or wrong, agreeable or not — to express it,” Lipscomb said. “That’s what this country is all about. That’s what every veteran has fought for throughout the years. For those rights.”

The city employee recognized were Will Scroggins, US Marine Reserve, Willie Brown, US Air Force, Brad King, US Army, Alvin McCarley, US Air Force, Patrick McCollough, US Army, Teddy Morris, US Navy, Brittani Reaves, US National Guard, Jeremy Reaves, US Army National Guard, Tyrone Roberts, US Navy, Maki Potts, US Army National Guard, Tristan Meadows, US Army National Guard, Richard Carter, US Air Force, Anthony Rudd, US Army, Jessie Marshall, US Army and Rodney Lowe, US Army.

Councilwoman Tamalita Autry also presented a commemorative plaque to Lipscomb and Veteran Gary Harris who participates in Lanett’s veteran’s program every year.

“We have a young man that blesses us every year in our Veterans Program. We want to give an appreciation to this young man for his dedication to our country and its military,” Autry said. “You make the city of Lanett proud, and we appreciate you Mr. Gary Harris.”

Lanett High School JROTC performed the raising of the flags. During the ceremony, Tonya Frank performed the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.” To close the ceremony, Harris performed the “Taps,” which is the bugle call to signal the end of the military ceremonies.

City of Valley

VALLEY — An Atlanta area man who served as a medic during the Vietnam War was the guest speaker at Friday’s Veterans Day program at the Valley Community Center.

American Legion Post 67 normally hosts programs on Memorial Day and Veterans Day at Veterans Memorial Park in Langdale. Lingering rain from Tropical Storm Nicole caused the Friday morning program to be held indoors.

Veterans Day has always been celebrated in the U.S. on Nov. 11. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I ended with an armistice. In the years following World War I, the day was observed as Armistice Day and honored the U.S. soldiers who served in it, both those who died and those who returned home.

In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans who had served in our nation’s wars.

The Marines were established by an act of the Second Continental Congress on November 10, 1775, several months before the Declaration of Independence. It took place 247 years ago on Thursday. Post Commander Lanny Bledsoe, a former U.S. Marine, opened the program by saying that Nov. 11 is an important date because it’s Veterans Day but that Nov. 10 is important, too, because it’s the date the Marines were founded. The Marines were established by an act of the Second Continental Congress on Nov. 10, 1775, several months before the Declaration of Independence. It took place 247 years ago on Thursday.

Bledsoe asked for any former Marines present for the program to stand.

“I am proud of anyone who served our country,” Bledsoe said. “Anyone who leaves home to serve in a branch of service deserves to be recognized and appreciated for what they did.”

Bledsoe said he could remember growing up in the River View community during World War II and the fact very few young men were there at the time. Almost all of them were away from home in some branch of the service. The women and children who remained at home constantly worried about their loved ones who were away.

“Many of them were in combat zones, and no one knew if they would ever make it back home,” he said. “The men who did what they did were special people.”

Everyone in the room stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance and listened as Gary Harris played the National Anthem on trumpet.

Bledsoe then thanked Valley Mayor Leonard Riley for the city’s continuing efforts to keep Veterans Park a special place of honor. Monuments in the park list the names of local men who died in service to our country during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In speaking to the crowd from the lectern, Riley promised that the city would continue making Veterans Park a well kept place in the city.

“America is a special place because of tolerance and freedom,” he said. “People from all over the world would love to live here because of that.”

Bledsoe introduced guest speaker Ed Hogg as someone who had quite a story about his service in Vietnam.

Hogg said he seldom spoke to groups of veterans but considered it an honor.

“What’s a veteran?” he asked. “It’s someone who at one point in their life signed a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.”

As a combat medic in 1970, Hogg saw many young men who had paid that amount in full.

Hogg was drafted into the Army in 1969 and went through basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey. His first unnerving experience happened at Fort Sam Houston, where he was taken through a burn center where young men who had been badly injured in Vietnam were being treated.

He found out he was going to Vietnam in an unusual way. He was in a group of 250 men when the company commander entered the big room, saying that he had some good news and some bad news for them.

“He told us he would go with the bad news first,” Hogg said. “He read off a list of names of men who were in the room. They were being sent to Germany or Korea. The good news? The rest of us were going to Vietnam to be combat medics.”

“I spent four-and-a-half months in the field,” Hogg said. “They would be the worst four-and-a-half months of my life.”

It was his job to be in a deadly combat zone doing all he could to save the lives of men who were barely alive. Most of them didn’t make it.

After four-and-a-half months, he was assigned to drive an ambulance. For the next two-and-half months, he handled body bags every day.

“Every night I was at a morgue with doctors who were filling out cards for those who had been killed in action,” he said.

In May 1970, the war expanded into Cambodia, an action that resulted in massive protests in the U.S. Hogg was sent to an area close to the Cambodian border.

“I was with a group of medics who were set up to tell which wounded soldiers would go back into action and which ones would go to the hospital,” he said. “We had no idea what was going on back home.”

When he was in that so-called Parrot’s Beak area, he had a chance meeting with one of his old college buddies who was in the infantry.

“He hollered at me, ‘Ed! Ed Hogg!’ he said. “I immediately knew who he was. It was good to see someone from back home.”

When Hogg was sent back home after his tour of duty was over, his plane landed at the San Francisco airport.

“I was heckled and someone spit on me,” he said. “I wanted to take off my uniform and hide it.”

When he got back to Georgia, it took him years to get over what he’d been through. He was a changed man. His marriage failed and at one point he contemplated suicide.

“I had a gun in my hand, and the only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t do that to my two beautiful children,” he said.

“When we got back, there were no parades, no bands playing and no one there to slap you on the back and say ‘Welcome home!’” he said.

Hogg has done lots of research over the years on the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Some of the data he has found is stunning.

“Between 1964 and 1973, more than 2.7 million U.S. men and women were in Vietnam,” he said. “More than 60 percent of that number faced hostile action at some point during their stay there. I had a friend who was a cook, and he was killed when a mortar shell hit the mess hall where he was working. One of the most disturbing statistics I have discovered is that 997 men were killed on their first day of combat in Vietnam. Over 5,000 helicopters were destroyed during the war. Thirty percent of those who were drafted got killed. Up to 80,000 Americans left the country to avoid being drafted. A total of 1,224 Americans remain missing in action.”

Out of the 2.7 million Americans who went to Vietnam between 1964 and 1973, just under 700,000 are still living.

Over 9,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide.

“The worst single day of the war was January 31, 1968, when 246 Americans were killed on the outbreak of the Tet Offensive. A total of 58,280 Americans died in Vietnam,” Hogg said.

It’s impossible to get an exact figure, but it is believed that more than 300,000 Americans have died from agent orange exposure.

“The Army finally realized that some of the post-war problems we were dealing with was due to that,” Hogg said.

Hogg is 60 percent disabled, possibly due to agent orange.

“I survived, came back home and faced divorce,” he said. “I can understand why so many Vietnam veterans have committed suicide over the years. I almost did it, and I am sure many more have thought about it.”

There were times when he was talking that Hogg had to collect himself, the a deep breath and continue.

“I appreciate being able to speak today, but it is bringing up some raw emotions I still carry,” he said.

He said that he takes solace in a statement attributed to WW II General George S. Patton: “It’s foolish to continually mourn those who died, just be thankful they lived.”

His one firm belief about Vietnam is that there are no heroes from that war.

“The heroes are those who didn’t make it back home,” he said. “Those who died are the heroes.”

Hogg is active today in Vietnam veterans organizations.

“We are tying to help veterans who are still struggling with their wounds,” he said. “Some of the money we have raised goes to the Shepherd Spinal Clinic in Atlanta.

“I would like for our younger veterans who took part in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to come to programs like this and to get involved with veterans groups,” he said. “Recent studies show that the suicide rate is higher among this group than it has been for Vietnam veterans. That disturbs me. Thank you for letting me speak to you today. God bless you.”

To call the National Suicide Hotline, dial 988.