Legion 67 to host Memorial Day service for local vets

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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VALLEY — Plans are being made for this year’s Memorial Day program to be hosted by American Legion Post 67. It will be taking place at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 27 in Veterans Memorial Park. There’s a special invitation for local veterans to be there.

Members of the local Post met on Saturday at Sunny’s Home Style Cooking in Valley to discuss this year’s program. Memorial Day is one of two events hosted by the Legion each year, weather permitting. On rainy days, a Memorial Day service in May of the Veteran’s Day event in November take place indoors at Valley Community Center.

Former Valley Mayor Arnold Leak will be speaking at this year’s Memorial Day program. He’s a Vietnam veteran and a decorated helicopter pilot. He will be talking about his experiences in the war and some men he served with who didn’t make it back. He will also be talking about some men from the local area who served in the Vietnam War and were killed in action.

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The names of those local men are listed on a memorial in Veterans Park.

“We usually have good crowds for our Memorial Day program and on Veterans’ Day,” Post Commander Lanny Bledsoe said on Saturday. “We appreciate that but a lot more people should be taking part in these events, not just here but nationwide.”

Bledsoe said he was concerned about the protests that were taking place on college campuses.

“Free speech is fine but violence, property destruction and occupying buildings is not.”

The protests are taking place in reaction to an ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. It began on October 7th with an estimated 1,200 Israelis being killed and more than 200 hostages taken in a surprise raid from the Gaza Strip. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has responded with a months long campaign that has killed an estimated 35,000 people, many of them women and children.

Bledsoe said it also concerned him that branches of services were finding it difficult to meet their quotas in terms of young recruits. He told fellow veterans present that he had served in the U.S. Marines in the 1950s and asked what branches of service the men present had served in. There were some fellow Marines along with men who had served in the U.S. Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the National Guard.

The veterans of World Wars I and II and Korea were well treated on their returns home but not so with the Vietnam War veterans. Though the vast majority of them had served well, many were badly treated when they got back home in the U.S. By 1968, sentiment was turning against what many called a “no-win” war, and some civilians saw the solders as targets for verbal abuse even though they’d done nothing wrong.

The theme of this year’s Memorial Day program in Veterans’ Park will be on the Vietnam vet and the need to show them some long overdue respect for their service.

Bledsoe commended Chambers County Veterans Service Officer Yvonne Triplett on the job she does in helping local veterans receive the benefits they have earned with their service.

“She’s a veteran herself and she is very good in getting veterans they help they deserve,” he said. “She has helped some local veterans be admitted into a home for veterans, and that’s not easy to do.”

One benefit that did come out of the Vietnam War was the advances that have taken place in emergency medicine. These advances not only saved lives of men who had been wounded in battle they also save lives at home. People injured in accidents can be saved with the same emergency medicine techniques that were practiced in the war zones in Vietnam.

“We only lost one local soldier (Brandon Hadaway) in Afghanistan, but we had a number of others from the local area who were wounded,” Bledsoe said. “There’s no telling how many of them may have died had it not been for advances in emergency medicine since Vietnam.”

The four monuments in Veterans Park bear the names of local men who died in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who died in the Vietnam War include Larry O’Neal Adamson of Fairfax; Richard Louis Barnes of Five Points; Lewis Andrew Callaway, 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; William Dean Monroe, Langdale; Jerry Rudolph Moon, Lanett; Thomas Larry Senn, Lanett; Wilmer Simpkins, Fairfax; Roy Edward Thomas, LaFayette and Ray Delano Watts, Lanett.

Bledsoe said he was well pleased with the turnout on Saturday. It largely filled the banquet room at Sunny’s.

“This is the second time we have met on a Saturday,” Bledsoe said. “For years we had met on a Tuesday night. If this is what we can do to get more participation, maybe we should do this from now on. We welcome all local veterans to join us. If you are having trouble getting the claims you have filed for, someone at our meetings can tell you something you may not have been doing right in applying. One veteran wants to help another one.”

Memorial Day is a holiday that is widely seen as the start of the summer season in the U.S. with Labor Day being seen as its conclusion.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday honoring and mourning U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the armed forces.

From 1868 until 1970 it was observed every year on May 30th. It’s now observed on the final Monday in May.