Former navy veteran talks about life in the military at Lanett Church of Nazarene

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2023

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LANETT — This past Sunday, the Lanett Church of the Nazarene continued a tradition that goes back many years. It was Veterans Day weekend, and veterans of U.S. military service who came to the Sunday morning worship service were recognized and thanked for their meaningful contribution to our country.

Among the veterans recognized were a grandfather and grandson. The grandfather, Herbert L. Hood Jr., was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era; the grandson, Kieran Hood, served in the U.S. Air Force from 2020 to 2022. The guest speaker for the day, Bradley Thompson, was in the U.S. Navy from 1976-1996. Other veterans present included Bill Burrows, U.S. Air Force, 1974-78; Wayne Belcher, Air Force, 1965-87; Tommy Smith, Alabama National Guard, 1975-1987; Frank Hartley, U.S. Marines, 1963-1967; James Wood, Air Force, 1975, and James Freeman, Navy, 1965-1971.

Bradley Thompson told the crowd present that he served as a crewman aboard a number of aircraft carriers including the USS Independence, and the USS Voge.

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In 2021, there were an estimated 46 aircraft/helicopter carriers in service worldwide. Of that number, the U.S. had 11 aircraft carriers and nine “helo” carriers, easily more than the rest of the world combined.

Thompson said it was quite an experience being on a carrier. “It was like a floating city,” he said. “There was at least 5,000 men on each carrier I was on. Meals are served 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are all kinds of stores, even barber shops. We did our share of hard work, and there was a code of discipline you adhered to.”

Thompson grew up in the Valley and graduated from Valley High. “I attending Faith Baptist Church in Valley when I was young,” he said. “I have been blessed over the years to share my experiences in song and in words.”

At one time he sang with a local gospel group named The Ambassadors. He performed at many locations with Danny and Jackie Curtis and Ward Doss. He said the hardest boss he ever worked for was his dad, or at least he thought so at the time. “I didn’t realize back then that he was teaching me about life and the things I needed to live by every day,” he said.

Thompson said he went though some uncertain times as a sailor. “I was on a carrier in the Mediterranean Sea when (former Libyan dictator) Gaddafi was threatening war,” he said. “The toughest times were the big storms we went through at sea. Some of them could damage even the big aircraft carriers and sweep away planes.”

Thompson used military terms to describe one’s true life as a Christian. “God always seeks a few good men,” he said, referencing a well-known line for the Marines. “Jesus laid out a code of conduct in the Bible. If you are looking for answers it will be in that book. God watched over me when I was in the Navy. We had our share of scary times. You could see those big waves, and you knew how powerful they were.”

Thompson said that one thing tougher than being in the Navy was being a Navy wife. “I have been married to the same woman for 42 years,” he said. “She was always behind me when I went through rough waters. I have been through some scary times. I have been in firefights on a river, and you could see the bullets coming at you. I will always believe the man upstairs was protecting me through those times.”

“My God takes on all challenges,” Thompson continued. “He can help us be selfless servants and to meet those challenges head on.”

In his younger years, Thompson battled alcoholism. “There was a time I could drink myself under the table and be proud of it,” he said. “It was really tough on my parents knowing that I was a drunk. I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous and learned that I couldn’t blame anyone else but me for the mess I was in. That’s the problem with the world today. Everyone wants to blame everyone else but themself.”

Being a true Christian is what saved him from a pointless life. Thompson said all veterans know the term marching orders. It also applies to Christians. “Our marching orders are to know and love Jesus Christ,” he said. “We are to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus. We should let the world know what God has done for us. The lives of the most plain, common, simple people can be made whole by being saved and following Jesus.”

During the morning service, the congregation sang patriotic songs such as “America the Beautiful” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The church pastor, Rev. Harold Henson, concluded the program with a prayer for our veterans and active duty personnel.

Afterward, the attendees, including Valley Mayor Leonard Riley and West Point Mayor Steve Tramell, enjoyed a hearty lunch in the fellowship hall.


VETERANS CELEBRATED — U.S. veterans and active duty personnel were celebrated Sunday morning at the Lanett Church of the Nazarene. Veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and National Guard stood as their branch of service was recognized. Shown above, in front, from left, are Bill Burrows, Wayne Belcher, Tommy Smith, Frank Hartley, Jim Wood and Kieran Hood. In back, l-r, are Bradley Thompson, James Freeman, Herbert L. Hood Jr., West Point Mayor Steve Tramell and Valley Mayor Leonard Riley.