Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Ashe County Involving Books

Read interesting and engaging books with the community that will spark involvement in local, positive, community efforts!

Ashe County Memorial Day 2019 (photos submitted by Martin Seelig)

Josh Roten and the staffs of Ashelawn Memorial Chapel & Gardens and Badger Funeral Home hosted the 52nd Annual Memorial Day Service and decoration on  May 26,2019. 
This annual event gives us a time and place to remember and honor those men and women who have served our country. In attendance: members of the Ashe County High School JROTC, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League and 1450th Transportation Unit of the National Guard. 

David Huffman and R. Shuford Edmisten

L to R: Celeste Preznull, Hayley Miller, Kaessey Thompson,

Logan Richardson, Emma Calloway

Drake Elliott

Montana Rose

L to R: (Color Guard) Johnny Eldreth, Kermit Wilcox,

James Sturgill, Bob Phipps, Jack Lynch

Jack Lynch of Lansing, American Legion talks with

Past State Commander, R. Shuford Edmisten.

Kermit Wilcox

Bella Potter

 

Colonel Hollis, JROTC teacher and

R. Shulford Edmisten, Past State Commander

L to R:  Khely Turnmire, Mason Carpenter, Dylan Little

Johnny Eldreth

L to R: (Firing Squad) David Ball, Paul Norris, Carol Elliot 

L to R: Alex Faw, Jonathan Diaz-Lowe

Colonel David Hollis - Ashe High School JROTC instructor

 

Ids C. Marsh - WWII Army Nurse

John Agnew

John M. Agnew was born in Clearwater, Florida on October 15,1947 to parents Paul and Ruth Harris Agnew.  Today he lives with his wife Marilyn in Crumpler, NC.

In order to avoid being drafted, John enlisted in May 1966 with the U.S. Air Force.  During the Vietnam Era, those that were drafted had the highest probability of being assigned to the Army as an infantryman.  Regardless, his parents and sister were worried and concerned that he was joining the military.  When choosing which branch to join, John chose the Air Force, following his uncle's advice.  John's uncle was a retired Air Force Colonel. 

Along with basic training, John attended Personnel Admin. Tech School.  Upon completion, he was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as a Personnel Specialist.  He served from May 1966 - May 1970 and rose to the rank of sergeant.  He received the Air Force Commendation Medal for Outstanding Service for his work with the 377th Combat Support Group at Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Vietnam.

When remembering the days he spent in Vietnam, John recalled long work hours, always being aware of his surroundings and counting each day with calendars (30 days left was "short-time").  He felt nervous and really missed his wife and family.  Constant prayer and letters from home helped to keep his spirit up.  When not on duty John enjoyed playing flag football, cards, visiting the NCO Club, and traveling.  In his role of combat support, John developed a greater appreciation for the American way of life. 

"While deployed in Vietnam I saw bad things, saw extreme poverty, was under attack and very scared.  I no longer saw life as just happy and joyful.  I am nervous still when I hear abrupt, loud noises." 

John also reflected on positive contributions and important life lessons from his service time; responsibility, teamwork, accountability, work ethic, brotherhood, and respect for the military and our country. 

"We need a strong military to preserve our FREEDOM and sovereignty.  War should be the last resort after ALL other options have been exhausted. I am proud to have served my country and helped others, in a foreign country, fight for their freedom."

On returning to civilian life, John spent several years in college before seeking employment.  The one thing he always left off his employment applications was his year of service time in Vietnam.  The Vietnam Conflict was very unpopular and no one wanted to talk about it.  "I felt almost like I had done something bad or shady."

"I  would like everyone to be thankful we live in a free country!  Many before me and after me, died to preserve our freedom. For veterans that need help adjusting, after returning, please seek help.  It is available.  I want everyone to understand that those of us who served in war zones are sometimes still there.  I am sorry that many of my brothers and sisters who served before me, with me, and after me, didn't come home.  They gave their ALL!"

Ernest Blevins

Ernest G. Blevins was born, on November 17, 1924 in Damascus, Virginia.  He had an older brother, Robert and a younger brother Norval.  His father, Samuel Lawrence Blevins, was a farmer and his mother, Creecy Howell Blevins, was a housekeeper / cook at the Phipps farmhouse in Lansing.  Ernest's father died when he was two years old, so he went to live with his grandmother Lura Howell (pictured here).  Times were hard for many during the depression days.  Since they worked on a farm and were able to stock up for the winter months, Ernest and his family were lucky to have the best food.  He does remember how his grandmother wrote a handwritten letter to Congressman R.L. Doughton requesting help  and this brought welfare relief to the area for those who needed food.

This picture of Ernest was taken in May 2019 (age 94)

Ernest shared one humorous story that taught a valuable lesson.  While at sea with no access to launder their clothes, a fellow soldier decided to 'wash' his pants in the ocean.  The dungarees were lowered on a rope and dragged underwater for probably a day.  Later when they were pulled back up, there was nothing left but one pocket and half a leg.  Lesson learned: saltwater is not good for washing clothes!

Another time at sea, while on the way to Japan, one soldier was washed overboard.  In quick response, a lifesaver was cut by a Marine who happened to witness the accident and flung off the deck into the water to help the flailing Marine stay afloat until rescue.  Although this action probably saved the soldier's life, there was quite an investigation about who actually cut the rope without official orders to take action. 

When occupational duty was over, the soldiers had to take small boats out to sea in order to board their larger return ship.  The anchor on Ernest's boat got hooked up on some debris and couldn't get loose.  Ernest remembers hearing one soldier wail "I want to go home!"  Finally someone gained courage to cut the anchor's rope (without official orders) and free their boat.  Everyone was ready to get back quick.

Ernest registered for the Marines with his good friend Joe Hart in 1942, but was not called to duty until November 1943.  Just before his service time began, he married the love of his life, Marie Darnell on September 4, 1943.  He remembers traveling on an old worn-out bus that vibrated all the way to basic training in Paris Island, South Carolina. Joe mentioned "You've heard of  The Liberator?... they should call this bus "The Viberator."  One memorable moment was running into his old buddy Joe several years after that bus ride, after the war, in a chow line while on occupational duty.

Before he left to fight, Marie's grandmother told her to read Psalm 91 and her grandfather gave Ernest a pocket testament.  Even though Ernest had two close calls with enemy fire, he never got a scratch and had no fear of death.  On thinking back over what he went though, he always thought, "I'm here, this is where I am supposed to be and tomorrow is another day." (Psalm 91 v: I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.)

During his time in Japan, he was working in Sasabo, near a site that had been devastated by the bombing of Hiroshima.  Ernest describes the landscape to look a lot like West Jefferson. He also worked a motor transport job, driving the colonel around the Naval airstrip on the island of Maui.  He recalled fixing the jeep up with cushions and a door installed on the colonel's side to make the ride more comfortable.

Later, while on a ship in Pearl Harbor, Ernest got word that his son, Ernest Michael, had been born.  He looked forward to the day when he would see his son.  Thirteen months later, coming home, was an emotional time.  Michael was ill and not expected to live.  Ernest was lucky to get a seat on a flight out of San Diego to Chicago and then rode a Pullman Train car to Bristol, Tennessee. On arrival he received good news that the fever had broken and his son would recover.

 

The date February 23 seemed to have significant meaning in connection to important dates in Ernest's military career.  It was February 23, 1944 that he finished boot camp. It was February 23, 1945 when the Marines took Iwo Jima, when he worked with his troop to put up a command post at the base of Mount Sirabachi.  And finally it was on February 23, 1946 that Ernest was discharged from the Marines.

On thinking back about these dates, and the number 23 in particular, another verse from the book of Psalms 23 described exactly how Ernest felt while in the midst of the worst battle ... v.4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Ernest found this paperback book at a store in Pennsylvania, years after the war was over and when he opened it up to look at the pictures, surprisingly he saw a picture of himself!

This iconic photo of the Iwo Jima flag raising was taken by Joe Rosenthal (“no copyright infringement is intended”).

Pictures of the 'Flag Raisers' (pictures from Richard Newcomb's book Iwo Jima)

Jefferson Post news articles about Ernest Blevins and the battle of Iwo Jima.

When returning to Hawaii, after the battle of Iwo Jima,  Ernest and his comrades heard that President Roosevelt had died. “This really tore me up. FDR had brought us through the depths of depression.  He had been my president for twelve years.  When America was poor .. rock bottom ... he went to work and things got done."

After his service years, Ernest started out farming with in a GI Bill, but a couple of years later decided to find more profitable work.  At the time his wife, Marie, got sick and was initially diagnosed with TB.  Doctors sent her to a sanatorium in Black Mountain, NC where she stayed for two-and-a-half months.  When her health problems continued, Ernest took his wife to Delaware to see a specialist.  Here it was determined that Marie had a cystic lung and with proper treatment was able to recover.    

After living and working in Delaware for a while Ernest moved back to Ashe County and bought an old house, known today as Buffalo Tavern.  He and his wife Marie opened up a Christian Book Store in West Jefferson, which they operated for thirteen years.  Ernest also worked in the automotive business for Superior Pontiac.

Pictured here are special awards, framed and displayed, on the walls of Ernest’s home. 

 

Darrell Brooks

(pictured: Darrell with his parents and sister Wanda)

Darrell Brooks was born in Ashe County, NC on April 18, 1947 to Ina Mae Poe and Garney H. Brooks.  He is the oldest of five children ... in birth order: Darrell, Wanda, Linda, Helen, and Danny. 

His father was born on October 22, 1921 and served during WWII.  "He never wanted to talk about his service and later we found out that he was working on some kind of chemical warfare."

Darrell's mother stayed home with the children until his little brother went to school ("I was about 12 or 13 at that time) and then she took a job working for Sprague Electric Company in West Jefferson, NC.

L to R: Darrell, Wanda, Linda

In Darrell's words ...

I graduated from Beaver Creek High School in 1965 and was drafted in May 1966.  I went to Boot Hill at Fort Jackson, South Carolina where I lived in a tent for two months during the heat of summer.  After basic training, I went to wireman's school for a month then was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where I trained to be a lineman.  While there my instructor got bit by a brown recluse spider and since he knew I had already trained to climb telephone poles I was asked to teach the group of six.

"My company commander took a liken to me and held me over in the training company.  There I served as the shipping department clerk (I shipped men out to other facilities).  When they arrived at the company, I received them, collected their records and assigned living quarters.  When their orders were cut, I prepared their records and took them to the pharmacy to get their shots appropriate for where they were going. I stayed there for about six months.  I had orders after my training to go to Germany, but my company commander talked me into signing up for Signal Officers Candidate School (OCS).  I signed up and waited until they finally cut my orders for Artillery School in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  This was not what I had asked for, but my commander didn't have time to change the order so I went to OCS and and immediately asked to be removed from the school.  One month later I was transferred to Headquarters Battalion where I worked as a line crew leader on East Range.  About a month later, I was transferred to West Range, where I repaired telephone communications lines on the West and Quanta Ranges.  West Range was the training area for Artillery Officers and Quanta Range was a target area for Honest John Rockets.  I only witnessed two fire power demonstrations, where these rockets where fired.  I stayed there until I was discharged in early May of 1968." 

The Honest John was a long-range artillery rocket capable of carrying an atomic or high explosive warhead. It was a free-flight rocket as opposed to a guided missile. The rocket was 27 feet long, 30 inches in diameter, weighed 5,800 pounds, used a solid propellant and had a range of 12 miles. It was first fired at White Sands in 1951. In the Spring of 1954 the Honest John was deployed as an interim system. This was the first US tactical nuclear weapon. The Basic (M31) HONEST JOHN system was first deployed in 1954. It was replaced by the Improved (M50) HONEST JOHN in 1961 which reduced the system's weight, shortened its length, and increased its range. Between 1960 and 1965, a total of 7,089 improved HONEST JOHN rockets, less warheads, were produced and delivered. In July 1982, all HONEST JOHN rocket motors, launchers, and related ground equipment items were type classified obsolete.  

Darrell and daughter, Gina.

Darrell with Janice, his wife.

Darrell, mom, wife

Janice and Darrell

Darrell enjoys making music on Friday nights with friends in West Jefferson at the old Greenfield Restaurant.  

Deeanna Burleson

In 1990 I moved from Mississippi to Midlothian, VA located south of Richmond.  I transferred to a civilian position at the McGuire VA Medical Center in the surgical ICU and to an Air Force Reserve position at the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as a aeromedical evacuation nurse on the 141 Starlifter. Over the next few years I was deployed several times to support Dessert Shield, Dessert Storm and Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. During all of this a attempted to balance my civilian position at the VA Medical Center and being a single mom (once again).  When I entered a Master’s program at the Virginia Commonwealth University, I transferred to the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, WV because the mission on a C 130 was shorter than the 141. This was so that I could successfully (if at all possible) all of the roles I was attempting to undertake. I later returned to the 459th once I completed my Master’s program. 

One of most favorite missions over the years was when I was part of the crew that brought back a mom and her two children.  Her military husband was not able to travel with her on her return to the U.S. from Germany.  She had an almost 2 year old and then a premature baby that traveled even before her due date. The baby was fine and did not need any special support but I found myself caring for the 2-year old for the most part of the 7 hour trip back to the States.  It was a good thing that we did not have a heavy load.

Care-packages

Receiving care packages from home during a Desert Storm deployment in Ramstein, Germany.

... pictured at Ramstein Air Base in Germany

working flight line recovery.

As I look back on my US Air Force career as a Nurse, I shake my head in disbelief at the experiences I was able to discover.  I was very fortunate to serve my country and play some role in making our country stronger and better. The downside was the time I spent away from my children.  The time I spent away from my children was the sacrifice. Their sacrifice was more than mine. Although no matter where I was in the world my thoughts and heart were always with them and the plan to take them to those far away places.  I wanted this experience for them, their future.

... practicing air medical evacuation training exercises

459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron - Andrews Air Force Base

I finished nursing school at UNC Charlotte in May of 1982.  April 9, 1983, I entered the Charlotte Air National Guard as a flight nurse on the C-130. I had applied to enter the Air Force as an Active Duty but was “rejected” because I was a single mom.  Rejection, I have found out to often be not a real rejection or failure but just a nudge to a different door.  For me it was the reserve forces.  After attending flight nurse school in San Antonio, TX (my first airplane flight) I supported the Charlotte Air National Guard flying training missions.  Training in the event we were needed to be deployed to support our country.  During this time, I flew to Germany to support a NATO training mission called, Exercise Reforger.  This is the first time I had been out of the country.

In 1985, I remarried and moved to Jackson, MS, transferring to the MS Air National Guard as a clinic nurse and eventually was tapped to be the Chief Nurse of the MS Air National Guard Clinic. In this role I found myself for the first time traveling to California, renting a car and driving myself north of San Francisco.  Now that was an eerie feeling to be driving, alone on such an unknown highway so far away from home with only maps and no electronic GPS as we have today. During this time as a civilian nurse I worked as the Director of Education for a small Women’s Hospital, emergency department nurse and a Veterans Administration surgical ICU nurse.

At an award ceremony for a 90-day deployment in the

National Capital Region, Washington D.C.

with General George Peach Taylor Jr.

After my active duty support of the National Bio-surveillance Integration System (NBIS) I accepted a position at the Pentagon in Virginia to support the Joint Chief of Staff Surgeon. This was such an honor and a wonderful experience. I supported and led various projects from resolving payment issue to foreign governments for supporting us in Iraqi related conflicts and to conduct site visits for President’s Obama’s desire to close Guantanamo Bay and move the Iraqi detainees to US Federal prisons. During this time one of my favorite experiences was when I provided a tour of the Pentagon for a colleague’s father, a War World II Veteran.  What a treat that was for me, his son and for him. He had so much to share. We need to always listen to the stories our Veterans have to share with us. 

(Pictured L to R) 

LtCol (Ret) Deeanna Burleson, USAF, Staff Assistant to Surgeon General, Joint Chief of Staff

Mr. Frank A. Dell, US Army Sergeant (E-4), WWII Veteran, Pacific Theater Philippines

Col Randy Dell, USAF, OSD/Policy, Pentagon, Washington, DC

With Navy Captain Phillip Johnson at his retirement ceremony.

Meeting President Bush

Over the next several years I had many opportunities and in many roles. As I found myself on other roads in my journey through life, I continued to serve the US Air Force in ways I never dreamed that would be possible. The highlights of those experiences included a 90-day assignment to support a research study and a surveillance activity during the time of GW Bush’s second inauguration. This experience led to being offered an active duty assignment at US Northcom to coordinate and represent the military in a National Bio-surveillance initiative mandated by Congress to the Department of Homeland Security to integrate biological data across federal agencies to create an early warning disease outbreak detection capability. During this time, I was pulled into the operation support by US Northcom to support damage and destruction during Hurricane Katrina.  It was during this time and the evening of September 23, 2005 that I met President GW Bush. I was very surprised at the person I saw him to be.  He went from operation desk to operation desk, at least 50 desks and met, shook hands and had a conversation specific to the person and role they were holding. He discussed books he had read to the weather man.  Discussed with me my role at the Surgeon’s desk and my last name, since there is a Burleson, TX. My opinion of him totally changed and was a lesson in people are not always what they seem to be on the TV and in the voice of public opinion.

On April 10, 2010, after 26 years of service I retired. It was time but I miss the work, the people and feeling like I was doing something for a great country.  I am sure you can see why I look back and shake my head as to how I, a young girl from rural NC found herself in all these different experiences.  My only regret was time I lost with my daughters, my brother and other family members.

James "Jim" Cain

Jim Cain served 26 total years with the Department of the Army and seven years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  He completed four tours of Vietnam and visited all but one providence of Vietnam (36 out of 37).  He retired as SES-4 (Senior Executive Service).  SES is a position classification in the civil service of the federal government, equivalent to general officer or flag officer ranks in the U.S. Armed Forces. Level 4 SES can be compared to between a two and three star general.

Jim graduated from high school in 1964 with two college credits and a scholarship for track and field. It was one year earlier, as the Vietnam War began to escalate, that Jim began thinking about serving his country.  He remembers seeing television footage of the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thích Quảng Đức, whose self-immolation protest made headlines.    He wanted to enlist in the Navy but he was too tall for submarines.  The Marines wouldn't accept him because of his poor vision.  So Jim took a battery of Army tests and he earned the highest scores ever!  

Both of Jim's parents served in the military during WWII.  His father, James Cain,  was a member of the Navy and worked as a Water Tender Chief in the boiler room of the USS Chester.  His mother, Daisy DeBerry Cain, worked as secretary of Marine Headquarters in Washington D.C.  (picture taken in 1945)

His parents always encouraged him and gave him advice saying, "If the opportunity presents itself, look at it, analyze it, and if it makes sense ... take it!" 

Jim standing in front of the Army Security Agency Honor Guard Headquarters in Fort Devens, MS in 1966.  He had to spend six months in the Honor Guard before going to Infantry Officer Candidate School. The Commander of the Training Brigade Col. Millett, Medal of Honor winner from the Korean War, wanted to ensure that his men were fully qualified.

Jim was in the Army Security Agency and was commissioned after Infantry Officer's Candidate School as a Military Intelligence Officer.  Pictured here are pages from the training program that Jim created along with their Vietnamese translations.  These were used during Jim's first tour of Vietnam, immediately after Tet 1968.

Jim's doodle of  a Provincial Area Intelligence Representative,

from one of the pages in his training manual. 

Vietnam Staff Officers Commendation Medal First Class

for the PAIR Program

These are Jim's original Captain's Bars (for a Class A dress uniform).  He made Captain in early 1969 and never wore the Class A uniform again after 1972.

These are Jim's original dog tags from his first tour of Vietnam,

along with a P38 can opener.

Jim's facility identification pass from his tour in MAAG, China.

This insignia was commonly referred to as "the shafted sunflower"

by Army personnel that wore it.

Jim and his wife Joyce at a formal event (1970).  Joyce's thoughts as a military wife:

Our time with the Army and the government was very interesting in a variety of ways starting when Jim and I were first married in 1967. Contrary to the officers’ wives’ norm at the time, which was hosting and attending Officer’s Wives Club teas, meetings, and social events, I was a trained and experienced histologist.  I worked for the chief of ENT at John Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, specializing in laryngeal cancer as part of a grant from John Hopkins University.  During Jim’s career, I also worked in Taiwan as a bookkeeper and an out-of-country tour coordinator for the Officers’ Wives’ Club.

After Jim completed advanced courses in Military Intelligence, he came back to the apartment one night and announced that we had orders for the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Tapei, Taiwan.  After being shown where Taiwan was on a map of the world, I asked Jim if he realized how far away from Baltimore it was!

In Taiwan, Vietnam, and especially Thailand, I enjoyed the food and customs, the arts and crafts, and activities that allowed me to meet the citizens in their native environments. 

The Vietnamese were kind and friendly people and the food was wonderful.  It is a beautiful country with multitudes of bicycles and motor scooters.

Thailand had outstanding food ... fried bananas, sticky rice, and mangoes.  There were flowers and monks everywhere and wild traffic … adjusting to driving on the right.

The language in Hong Kong was a problem ... I didn’t have an ear for it.

During Jim's time in Germany, as a Human Intelligence Case Officer, Joyce was working again as a histologist ay the Landstuhl Army Medical Center (1977-87).

Jim is pictured here with his boss, Major Al Bissio during his second tour (1972-73).  They are waiting for transportation to An Kag, Vietnam.

This picture was taken in Bangkok within days after the Vietnam cease fire.  Jim is in the center with colleagues from Detachment K of the 500th MI Group, wearing his Army Commendation Medal.

After the Vietnam cease fire, the State Department began managing the war effort.  Jim is pictured here, in Nha Trang Vietnam, with members of the Defense Liaison Office Team for II Corp.

This little medal (equivalent of a challenge coin) was received after six months of excruciating training at the Camp Peary, VA, home of the FARM.

Jim's great, great grandfather was killed in 1889 by a buffalo soldier, on horseback, during the last Indian uprising against white settlers in the state of Minnesota.   Jim's clan has always been in charge of providing security to the tribe.  This could explain Jim's choice of profession.  As a side note, his tribal identification card (even if expired) can be used in the state of NC as voter identification.  After all, Jim is an American Indian, born in California, on the fourth of July.  You can't get much more American than that!

This is an unofficial patch worn on the duty uniforms of members belonging to the 525th MI Group in Saigon, Vietnam.

Twelve Things the Army Taught Me

by, Jim Cain

1. We are all family. We may bicker and argue among ourselves but in the end, we all work together doing our parts to accomplish the overall mission.

2. We do not discriminate.  We don't care where your parents came from.  We don't care what language you speak at home. We don't care what your religion is or if you have one.  For the Army, we're all wearing green.

3. We don't discriminate against women as many general officers are women.

4. We work as a team.  All teams are only as strong as their weakest link.  Help those who need help and we all benefit.

5. Constantly strive to learn.   The world is changing don't be left behind.  Life is a constant learning experience.

Pictured: at the first Presidential Inauguration Ball for Bill Clinton.

6. Set the example.  Be a model for others to follow.  Lead, follow, or get out of the way. 

7. Always be looking for better smarter ways to do things.  No one has all the answers. 

8. If an opportunity presents itself and it makes sense, take it or follow it and make it yours.

9. Learn from your mistakes.  None of us are perfect.

10. Don't let age be an excuse if you can help it.

11. Work around your disabilities if possible.  Mine showed up with hip replacement and knee trouble. And like so many of us ... we left the war but it never left us.  PTSD comes in all different forms and is something many of us deal with.

12. Something that made a lot of sense to me came from Yoda of Star Wars: There is no excuse.  There is what you do and what you don't do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Albert Calhoun (interviewed by Maranda Banks & Kiesha Shoemaker)

Albert Calhoun was born in Fig, North Carolina. Today Fig is known as the Creston area. His father, Vernie and mother, Maude were farmers. He has one older sister named Mary Ruth Patrick and three younger brothers; Larry, Howard, Ralph. Another brother named James Edward died as an infant.

After finishing high school, Albert worked in Pennsylvania delivering drywall.  He was drafted into the Army at the age of 22 in  June of 1967.  His parents wished him good luck as he headed off for training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Later Albert was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas. The hardest part about his military training was moving from place to place. "It was hard to adapt to new places and people." While in training Albert became an expert with rifles, shooting 3300 rounds a day! Surprisingly it wasn't gunfire, but barbwire that led to a serious injury. In Kansas there was a lot of Broom Sedge, a grass that grows two to four feet high, and he didn't see barbwire hiding in the grass. Snagging some wire he tore open his leg and the wound soon became infected ... that was a painful memory.

Albert-Calhoun

After finishing his training, Albert began his military career in Munich, Germany. The cooks were great and he loved the German food!

 

One of the worst times in Germany was during winter when there was a really bad snow storm. One night on Hill #29, twenty inches of snow fell down caving in his unit's tents, giving them a brutal awakening. Albert said, "You don’t get cold because the snow wraps around you and keeps you warm." He worked with his partner clearing snow, so all the soldiers could get out.

 

Coming down the hill they heard someone yelling for help. His squad had to go dig him out of about a six foot snow drift!

 

When he first went to Germany there were fifteen guys in his group. When he came back there were only two who returned. The others were killed in the Vietnam. Albert was lucky to avoid Vietnam, during his time in service he stayed in Germany and when stateside he was in Kansas and Missouri.

Albert took engineering training while stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and helped to build an airport while there. He recalls a time when one of the guys missed a ramp and drove his vehicle into a deep pond. It really sunk down deep, but they eventually pulled it out.

Albert was honored to raise the American flag at a Skyline / Skybest Telecommunications meeting in West Jefferson, North Carolina. One thing he wants all kids to remember is to "always have respect for the flag."

Albert reflects that his military experiences gave him responsibilities and to have respect for everyone and everything.  He says, "If you want to go into the military then go, because it is the best thing you can do and it teaches you responsibility and teaches you discipline."

This is a picture of Albert with his step-granddaughter, Audrey, an elementary school student who met him at the door when he came to be part of their Veterans Day Ceremony.  He was proud that she placed her hand over her heart in a salute.

Albert is very patriotic and enjoys painting hats with Army logos.  He also paints t-shirts and makes woodworking designs to always remember service to our country. 

G. Glenn Crawley

George Glenn Crawley was born in Schewectady, New York on March 6, 1939.   He enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 12, 1957 and served until September 13, 1960.  He belonged to the U.S. Army Signal Corp, participating in the Cold War.   His highest rank was E-5.

G. Glenn Crawley lives with his wife JoAnn in Jefferson, NC.

I joined the Army after graduating from high school and was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey for Basic Training.  After graduation from basic training I was sent to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey to take a 26 week course, training to be a Fixed Station Carrier Repairman.  I graduated from this course and was assigned to the Chief Signal Officer's section of the U.S. Army.  This section is housed at the Pentagon. After two weeks of leave, I had to report back to Fort Dix for my duty assignment. 

My overseas assignment was for 18 months in *Tuslog Det 66 Ankara, Turkey.  Ultimately this was extended for 60 days.  I was finally shipped home in March 1960 and after 30 days leave, I reported to Fort Myer, Virginia for duty in the Pentagon.  I worked there until my separation from active duty in September 1960.

*Tuslog means Turkish United States Logistical group

 

 

Pictured here is Glenn with his good friend Bob Johnson and his wife Phyllis at Fort Monmouth.  After basic training Glenn met Bob on the bus headed to Fort Monmouth.  This was in January 1958.  Soon after settling in the training program, Bob left on leave and married Phyllis in February.  They had an apartment off base and Glenn spent a lot of time with them riding around on off-time to go to the beach and visit family back home.  This friendship has lasted through the years. 

The background in this picture shows the topography of one Glenn's work sites.  Also pictures is "a field of antennas" which served  mission's electronics.

Glenn standing in front his barracks in Ankara, Turkey.

Turkish money and script.  The 2 and a half lira equals about 25 cents at the time Glenn was in Turkey.  The scripts bills were American to offset the black market.

Sam Crumpler (interviewed by granddaughter Loren Shimel)

Charles Harold (Sam) Crumpler was born Aug. 23, 1950 in Wilson, NC.  

His mother, Mildred Hayes Crumpler, worked as a housewife and his father, Horace Richardson Crumpler, as a welder.  Sam came from a large family; eight children counting himself.  One brother, Tommy Crumpler, was also in the Army for two years.  

Prior to the service Sam worked for Davis Tile Company in Black Creek, North Carolina.  Sam was happily surprised to get drafted.  He wasn’t married, or had any children at the time, but did leave behind his parents and siblings. He had to report to a draft entry point in Wilson (induction center) and was sent by bus to Raleigh for physical, etc. and then to Fort Bragg for basic training.

 

He attended basic training, military occupational training, jump school, numerous professional development trainings, army recruiting school, and first sergeant academy. He graduated from basic and senior noncommissioned officer training at Texas Western University.  Sam was recognized as a master jumper, with 96 successful parachute jumps, and an expert rifleman.

Sam traveled to many places and met a lot of different people.  Although he didn't like being away from family he did enjoy gaining knowledge about the world and places he had never been. 

 

After basic training he attended Military Occupational Specialist Training to become a combat engineer.  He had to qualify with weapons, learning to assemble, disassemble, and keep them clean.  These were long hours and Sam had to work many ‘a hard day’s night,’ rain or shine.  No time off for bad weather!  His highest rank was Master Sergeant and he received awards for good conduct, Army achievement and several Meritorious Service Medals.

The Army taught him to take every opportunity to better his education, since no one can take that away from you.  This experience made him grow up fast and made him a better person.

Sam with his daughter, Angela (Crumpler) Shimel

Sam served honorably in the military from May 1970 – June 1990.  He doesn’t regret anything, not even being drafted and would do it all over again, not changing a thing.  After military service he went to work for North Carolina Department of Corrections and stayed there until he retired in 2015.

Blanco Eller

 

 

 

 

Ashe native Blanco Eller honored in France on D-Day’s 75th anniversary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      The banner flying in Chef du Pont, France in Eller's memory

Doug Ehrhardt

Doug Ehrhardt holding a copy of the picture that was taken when  he was in Boot Camp at Great Lakes in 1970.  

Douglas (Doug) Ehrhardt was born in St. Louis Missouri to Robert A. Ehrhardt and Nelly Mae (Sue) nee Marshall Ehrhardt.  Doug’s father was employed as a salesman for Monsanto, an agrochemical company in St. Louis.  When Doug was ten years old, his father died of a brain hemorrhage.  His mother was a trained nurse, but due to severe asthma never worked for any length in the profession.  Doug provided care for his mother in her last years, moving her from St. Louis to Jacksonville, Florida where he was stationed.  She died in 1974.   Doug was the youngest in the family with an older sister, Judith Diane nee Ehrhardt DiBauda and an older brother, Robert Ehrhardt. 

Doug’s family was very proud of him, as he was the first to serve.  He joined the Navy in 1969 while attending college, since he was #74 in the Army’s draft lottery.  Prior to serving, Doug attended the University of Missouri, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture and a Master’s Degree in Entomology.  This provided him the qualifications needed for his direct commission as an entomologist in the Medical Service Corps.  Doug also attended Oklahoma State University on out-service training from the Navy for a PhD in Medical Entomology.  Prior to leaving the service, Doug used his GI Bill to attend Hood College in Maryland, where he obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Management.

"On entering the service via enlisting in the Navy to preclude being drafted in the Army, I was part of a special recruiting initiative in St. Louis.  The Recruiting Station I St. Louis, recruiting 75 enlistees, was sponsored by the St. Louis Cardinals.  We carried a flag identifying our company as the Cardinal Company and took the oath of office on the field of a ball game during the 7th inning." (This picture came from a book provided to each recruit when they graduated from Boot Camp.  After wining all the drill flags during eleven weeks of training this group was slated to head to the fleet or to an “A” school.)

Doug entered the service immediately after completing his first master’s degree.  His original plan was to get out after three years and then to pursue jobs in his career field.  Instead Doug remained in the Navy for 30 years, serving the first eighteen years in operational preventive medicine and the last twelve years in research support billets.

I introduced a peer in mine from OSU to the Navy who joined and remained in the Medical Service Corps for 24 years and now is retired in Fleetwood where my family lives and we continue to have good memories of our service time together.

"I was commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade, advanced to Lieutenant in one year.  Promoted to Lieutenant Commander after six years, Commander in five years and finally Captain in year eighteen of my career.  I retired as a Captain after 30 years."

This photo was taken when Doug was first commissioned and stationed in Norfolk, VA at the Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit #2.  

This picture is an early “official” photograph that was taken to have an official passport made when I was headed to an overseas tour in Okinawa…can’t believe that the mustache was still something that was permitted back in late 1975.  My working khakis didn’t have my rank or corps insignia as the policy was to not have them displayed in a passport photo.

As a medical service corps officer, Doug was fortunate that his wife was able accompany him throughout his career.  All three of their children were born in military hospitals.

"After being selected for out-service training on my PhD at the Oklahoma State University I did research on the reproductive biology of horse flies.  I was also involved in a study on acaricide mites at the University of Missouri. 

"In both cases this work was very enjoyable, as the research was both cutting edge and made me think I was helping to pursue control measures against biting, and potentially, disease producing insects. One uncomfortable result while doing some chromatography under black light resulted in an eye injury, but luckily it was not long term."  

"There was a professor in my PhD program at OSU that was very challenging…he taught numerous courses on insect taxonomy, both adult and larval, and made the learning about all manner of species a memorable one."

This photograph is of the first opportunity I had to attend a Tri-Service Military Entomology meeting in San Antonio, TX and was a group photo of many of my peers, mostly more senior officers as I was just a LT. 

My military lifestyle was essentially no different from a civilian job as I went to work each day to support operational preventive medicine or research and development management.

My family always accompanied me in my duty assignments, with the exception of a 6-month deployment as a Preventive Medicine Team leader with MSSG 2-2 to Beirut, Lebanon in 1983 in support of the Marines.

This picture shows my living quarters at the Beirut Airport where I lived for 6 months.

"This is a US Marine Corps patch that was made to ID our effort as part of the 6th Fleet Amphibious Force."  

This picture is of myself and a medical department officer, assigned to do some off-base inspections. Our charge was to certify food production facilities, that the MSSG started using about half way through the deployment, to help reduce our use of MRE’s in our chow hall.  

'Neat and tidy' living quarters while on temporary duty with the Marines in Beirut, Lebanon.  I had a room to myself for my quarters as I was a LCDR on that assignment, which meant I had the same rank as the CO of the MSSG.  

This building was reinforced with walls made from sand bags and named The Sandbagger" ... a place to socialize during down time.  This building's damage was sustained from fighting before the Marines arrived. 

.  

Inside the Sandbagger ...   This picture continues to clearly display our living conditions in Beirut and it was oftentimes a characteristic of some of the places the Marines deployed to as having a “club” for times when off duty.  

Sandbagger Bar - this was the bar in the Sandbagger, but the circumstances of the troops using the facility changed dramatically after the U.S. Embassy was bombed…about 2/3 of the way through the deployment.

This picture from home, was sent while overseas - Cathy had the children send me the photo to brighten my spirits.  

This picture was taken one evening when the Commanding Officer (COL Mead, USMC) selected from the persons assigned to attend a dinner hosted by a civilian (the man in the suit with his wife) who attended the University of Missouri but lived in Beirut as a representative for a cigarette manufacturer and he wanted to express his gratitude for the Marines support in country…to limit the total number he could essentially host, Marines from the state of Missouri were selected.  We probably had a cadre of about 20 that accompanied COL Mead to a very posh restaurant before returning to base.  My sharing of the picture with LCDR Turner was an interesting story as both he and I were on the University of Missouri Swim Team prior to going off to our respective service assignments…Jeff was initially in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot during Nam, but got out, went to school for his dental degree and came back on active duty with the Navy.  By happenstance, we were reunited after some 15 years when we were both assigned to the Marines in Beirut.

Doug's Service History

I was the Director of the Officer Indoctrination School in Rhode Island where all medical department, JAG officers and nuclear power officers attended prior to their first duty in order to learn proper decorum as a Naval Officer.  This was my official photograph in that assignment.  

Doug left the service in the DC area and immediately went to work as a contract employee of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for Military Medicine as part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD supporting the Military and Emergency Medicine department.  He initially was employed as a Special Projects Officer, later as deputy, and lastly as the Acting Director of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine.

Doug is a long-time member of the Military Officers Association of America.  He has served as the President of the local MOAA chapter in West Jefferson, the New River Chapter, and was the 2016-17 President of the State Council of MOAA. 

When considering how the military affected his life, Doug says, "I can honestly state that being a professional entomologist in the Navy and later as a staff/senior management officer/director of my post-Navy work, helped in my career path for the duration.  I learned professionalism, leadership, and personal management."

Doug's feelings about war and the military in general made a big impact on him; "I strongly supported our military in all their missions that I experienced in my 30 years on active duty, as well as the decisions made by higher leadership during those times.”

 ... promoted to Captain in New Point, Rhode Island

pictured with wife Cathy at promotion

 

Cathy and Doug with their children (L to R: Jennifer, Greg, Stephanie)

Cathy and Doug on way to a Navy Ball in Norfolk, VA. 

(stationed here in 1971 - 75)

Commander Doug with wife Cathy in Jacksonville, Florida

(stationed here in 1984-88)

Captain Doug with wife Cathy in Bethesda, MD 

(stationed here in 1995 - 2000)

In my retirement I continually hear from others who observe my NAVY ball cap and hear about my having spent 30 years on active duty, that they often reflect on ways that their own lives, post-service, could have been influenced by remaining on active duty to retirement.

 I think that any individual considering whether to serve, should weigh the opportunities for him/herself and choose to follow a path of their own future growth when thinking about some of the varying paths to success the military can provide. 

Jim Gambill

Jim Gambill wearing light blue suit

Memorial Day Speech 1991 (by, Jim Gambill)

James (Jim) G. Gambill was born on July 8, 1944 in Lincolnton, NC.   Jim served in the Army from July 1966 - December 1993, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He was involved in the Korean Conflict and the First Gulf War.

 .... talking strategy (Randall West far right)

debriefing

Robert J Godbey

Robert J Godbey, 3/29/1894 - 10/18/1980 was Cleo Huck's great uncle.  "We always called him Mr. Robert. Mr. Robert was the baby brother ... quite a character and had a love of fishing and gardening. Robert went off to WWI when he was 23 years old. While in the Army, Mr. Robert was the Army Field Clerk for his unit. He was briefly married and had the marriage annulled. When asked why he never married again he stated, “I tried it once, I did not like it, and saw no reason to ever try it again”. Mr. Robert spent a lot of time in Ashe County helping his brother, Walter. Walter was at the time clearing land to build the Hilltop Golf Course, known today as Mountain Aire Golf Course."

"Mr. Robert especially enjoyed dances at the Hotel Tavern. He was a great story teller, and was always looking for the nearest square dance group. He canned local beans, filling his car with as many jars that his car would hold, and took them back to Florida to sell."

Cleo says. "I have inherited the love of gardening but you will never catch me fishing."

     On December 11th, 1917 I enlisted in the Regular Army of the United States.  I enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps.  How can I ever forget those wonderful days:  I say wonderful, for they were wonderful days indeed to me, as I learned later.  Most of the Field Clerks over here have had no military experience at all, and I thank myself again and again that I was once a soldier of Uncle Sam, and that I received military training.

     The days that I spent at Park Field, Tennessee (20 miles north of Memphis) in company with Eugene Moon et al will never be forgotten by me if I live to be a million years old.  Of course the boys had their differences, but it is to be expected when 150 boys get together and have to live in one room. 

     The day after I enlisted I was assigned to duty as Stenographer in the Quartermaster’s Warehouse, and after about 2 weeks I was relieved of my duty there and sent out to the Warehouse to act in the capacity of Freight Hustler. 

     I received my discharge from the Army on February 11th, 1918, exactly 2 months to the day from the date of enlistment. 

  

   I can never forget the sad occasion when I said “Good bye” to the boys of the 193rd Aero Squadron –the “Millionaire Squadron,” for such the Squadron was called, and truly so for the reason that the boys owned about 25 cars.  It was a sad day in a way, and joyful in another way, when I waved a brave “Good bye” to the boys and hopped in the old Haynes and pulled out of Park Field for Memphis to catch a train that night for Washington, D.C. to take the examination for Army Field Clerk.

     Arriving at Washington on the 13th of February 1918, we, Rachel and I went to the New Ebbitt Hotel and secured rooms and went at once to the office of the Hon. Hubert F. Fisher, Congressman from Memphis.  After staying a few minutes at his office we went down to the War Department and to Mr. Fox’s office, the gentleman who has charge of “making” the Field Clerks.  After taking and passing the simple examination I was told that I could go any day that I wanted to.  I expressed a desire to stay around Washington for a few days to see some friends of ours (who, by the way, we never could catch in) and I was told to come back on the 16th to be sworn in and was told to report to the Commanding General, Headquarters Eastern Department, at Governors Island, New York.  And to think that I was at last going to New York City, one of my many ambitions.

     Arriving at New York I got off the train at Manhattan Transfer, which is some distance from the Pennsylvania Station.  I took a subway to South Perry where you have to take a boat to get to Governor Island.  The conductor on the Subway told what train to take when I got off at a certain place, but I was bewildered at the thought of being in New York City that I couldn’t remember his directions.  A young fellow about 16 or 17 years of age came up and asked me if he could direct me anywhere.  I told him where I was going, and he offered to take there.  After a few minutes ride in the wonderful Subways we got off at South Ferry and the boy said, “Now you can pay me.”  I was so thunderstruck at the idea of having to pay anything and at the sight of the high buildings around, that at first I couldn’t speak, but after a minute I said “Pay you?”  He said, “Yes, we usually get $5.00 for showing people around.”  I said, “I guess you’re out of luck this time!”  But rather than have any trouble I was “rube” enough to give him $1.75.  My first time to get “gipped” and I hope the last time.

    …..I’ve never seen so much in a month, as I saw in those 13 days.  We went to the Hippodrome, the Winter Garden, the top of the Woolworth Building, and every other place worth going to, I do believe.  

     We walked down the building to our ship and everywhere I could see signs saying “THIS WAY TO U.S.S. LEVIATHAN”.  We wondered if we were going to get lucky enough to go over on that ship.  Finally, after a long walk we came to the outside of the pier and there was the ship.  After so long a time and much more walking we came to a sign that said “OFFICERS ENTRANCE TO U.S.S. LEVIATHAN” and as there was no other gangplank here we came to the conclusion that we were in the Leviathan.  And were we glad?  I’ll say we were! 

     We walked quite some distance thru the station, going first this way and then that way, and finally landing up at a long train of about 25 cars. 

     Positively, I have never seen such wonderful sights before as I saw from that train.  The country is beyond description, and as I write this I think about France as a comparison, and truly there is no comparison.  England is a thousand times prettier than France in my estimation, and I’ve heard others say the same thing.  Presently we came to a great camp and then we got our first look at German prisoners.  They are a dirty, vile looking people, and all of them look as mean as could be, …….

     After so long a time the train pulled in at South Hampton at 11:30 a.m.  We marched down to the Hotel in formation, and had to wait about half an hour before the meal was served. 

     I can never forget one dish that was a part of the meal.  It was called “Village Pot Pie”.  It was composed of some kind of greens, carrots, turnips and the toughest steak in whole wide world.  It was fixed up like the individual pies you buy at the restaurants back home, and certainly looked inviting enough, yes, but to try to eat it – impossible.  The rest of the meal was the same way.  Very nice looking indeed, but we couldn’t eat it at all. 

     After dinner we walked around the ship until we got tired, and I hardly think we walked over more than two decks at the most.  The ship is positively too big for words and when one attempts to describe it, it is almost impossible.  It is simply wonderful!

     …..went in to see the Captain’s room.  He has 2 rooms.  One of them is on A deck and consists of 2 small rooms connecting each other, and the other (I don’t know what deck it is on) contains 5 rooms, and I am told that in peace times that suite of rooms were sold for $8,000.00.  Imagine paying that much money for 5 days riding!  I am also told that the room I occupied sold for $1,000.00 and it certainly is a dandy. 

     We had on board the ship, 2,000 men in the crew, 500 officers (and F.C.’s) and 12,500 enlisted men.  Can you imagine one ship holding 15,000 people?  Well this ship had them and there was room for more……

     …..if you would go to the extreme back end of the ship you could see the southern end of New York City, and I’ll tell you it was certainly a beautiful sight to see the high buildings, and we all wondered if we would live to tell about seeing them this morning.  We were all optimistic about getting across in safety, but at that there was a certain feeling of uneasiness that was within each and every one of us, but we were all too manly to admit it.  Each one was careful of the feelings of the others and for that reason very little was said about the Submarines…..

  I got a good look at the Woolworth building, and it was a sad sight indeed to see it finally fade away into nothing, and then we were on our way.  Bound for France, England or a watery grave, no one knew.  We stayed on the decks for a short time and were told to go inside ……. I began to wonder if we would make the trip in safety and if I would ever get to see all the folks at home again, or if we would suffer the fate of the Tuscania.  But I reasoned that I could swim fairly well, and surely there would be a piece of wood floating around if we got submarined, but I had no fear of being drowned, for I trusted to the American battleships on the other side, and I know if we were subbed we would at least have time to wireless to them and they would come at once to the rescue, so I calmed down and was never worried any more during the entire trip.

    …..we went inside at 5:00 o’clock and the entire ship was darkened.  You see on all the ships there is not one light that shines, and the pilot has to pilot the ship in total darkness.  He isn’t allowed to have a light at all to see his instruments by, so you can see how well trained he must have to be.

The next day I took a walk along the docks, and saw some very interesting sights.  Among them, being a good look at some of the camouflaged ships.  I’d only seen these at a distance, but now I saw them very close, and some of them are certainly ‘works of art’, if indeed such painting can be called “Art” and I think it can, for it undoubtedly has saved the life of more than one soldier or sailor.  The following pictures will give some idea as to the weird designs resorted to, in order to make the outline and character of a ship somewhat hazy, and also quite invisible at a distance of a few miles. 

 The next morning about 10:00 o’clock we had what was called “Abandon Ship Drill”.  …..They were shy of officers and the Field Clerks were used in their stead.  I had about 75 men to take charge of.  ……. The second day’s drill lasted from 1:00 o’clock until exactly 3:00 o’clock and I was never so tired in my life before when the drill this day was over.  We were packed on the decks like sardines, and it was impossible for me to fall either one way or the other.

     …… I went up to see the “Admiral” again and borrowed a book from him.  It was the complete works of Sherlock Holmes…… I would read a few minutes after breakfast, go out on the deck and get some air (for Davis told me the safest way to keep from getting seasick was to “Eat your fool head off and get plenty of fresh air”) ………….

 

……the unearthly hour of 4:45. Everybody on the ship was supposed to get up at that hour, so in case the ship was subbed (they are most always torpedoed in the early morning or late in the afternoon).  You see, the way they do is to wait until the sun is just coming up over the horizon and get between the ship and the sun, and then it is quite impossible for the gunners to take sight at the periscope (and the same way in the afternoon when the sun is setting) … so in case the ship is torpedoed we would all be dressed and ready to go to our Station before she had time to sink.  ………. We were then sleeping with all our clothes on.  All we allowed to take off was our coats and leggings, and NO more.  It was a court-martial offense for one to be caught with any more than that off during the last three nights out.

     Then at the same time this Submarine was sighted another of the Destroyers sighted another one and finished it with a well-timed shot from one of its guns, and (so I am told by one of the sailors) another Destroyer sighted a third Submarine and fixed that.  I only know for sure that two were destroyed, but all the sailors are under the impression three were sunk.  ( I hope they are right!)

   …..and went to the ship.  The name of it was the “Londonderry” and it was about 200 feet long at the most, and about 40 feet wide.  After we got aboard some Australian troops came on and I should imagine there were about 1,000 of them.  Imagine all those soldiers on board and about 150 officers and field clerks, and the crew, on such a small ship.

     At exactly 7:10 on the morning of Thursday, March 14th, 1918 we sighted land, and this time it was “journey’s end” for it was France: le Havre, France. 

     As soon as the ship was made fast to the docks there was a great scramble to get our hand baggage.  …..after much confusion and great disorder all the baggage was piled up neatly in long rows on the decks.  While we were on top of the ship watching the troops get off, the lieutenant called our attention to a man shaving on the lower deck.  He said: “Do you know what the man is shaving with?”  We told him we had no idea and he told he was shaving with dregs left in the bottom of a cup of tea.  He said the little tea that is left in the bottom makes a fine stuff with which to shave.

     I can never forget the first minute I put my feet on the ground.  At last I was in France!  A place I have always wanted to be ever since war was declared, and here I was! 

Today at noon I took a walk along the Boulevard and went out to the end of the long Pier that sets as a breakwater.  On the edge of the wall here is to be seen some sights that I’ll never forget as long as I live.  It is the way that some of the French fish, or rather it is the way that most of them fish.  A large net is used, like is shown in the picture below, but no bait is used.  The net is lowered in the water, and when the man thinks he has a fish in it he draws it slowly to the top of the water.  If something is in the net, which is not often the case, he ties it up, as shown in the picture above, and uses a small net on a long pole, and scoops the fish up in that and then puts it in a small box that they all carry with them.  If they have no luck during the day, the box serves to carry back the remnants of their dinner, which usually consists of some cheese and bread and wine.  Nothing in the world but wine will the French drink. 

     I asked the Adjutant if it were possible to send 5 men to any one place to please send us, but….. Isn’t it a shame the way we were all split up?  I leave for Tours.  As the French would say, “est la guerre”!  We left Blois at 4:16 p.m. and at 6:15 p.m. arrived in Tours.  The train was very crowded on account of the air raids in Paris and they were coming down to the coast to spend the summer and to get away from the air raids.  Nearly all of the people on the train were rich people, judging from their clothes and seemed to be very nice indeed. 

     MEMORAMDUM for ALL Army Field Clerks…….  1.  The Provost Marshal and plain clothes men of the Intelligence Police section have been instructed to report every Army Field Clerk, Quartermaster Corps, and Clerk of whatsoever designation, who is seen associating in cafes or other public places with prostitutes and women of questionable character.      2.  All Clerks so reported will be brought to trial.  By command of Major General Kernan.

  

  …..we decided to leave our cigars on the outside get them as we came out.  As we went inside the Church I noticed a blind man standing on the outside of the door on the left side.  We laid our cigars near the door on the right side, and when we came out the blind man was smoking one of them and the other one was gone – in his pocket I suppose.

     We were told that the orders of the M.P.’s were to pick up every American who was seen on the streets after 10:00 o’clock, and as it was considerable after 11:00 o’clock then we decided that it would be better for us to pick some side street instead of going down the main ones, so we got off the Rue Nationale, and found our way without difficulty.

     Then he told me that I was to go to St. Nazaire that same morning so I had better get my bag and hurry around to the R.T.O. and secure transportation and rush for the train.  I put in my voucher for “per diem” and after a few minutes wait got it.  It amounted to $44.00 or $250.80 F., and I tell you I had considerable money.

    

The conductor blew his whistle and the train started.  Just as it got under way an aged Frenchman tried to get aboard the train.  He got one foot on the running board and one hand on the hand-rail, but by that time the train was going too fast for him to put his other foot up, so he tried to hop along, but the train was going too fast for him, so he gave it up and just hung there.  An American soldier saw his plight and rushed up to him.  He caught the old man in his arms and tried to pull him off the train, but the old man wouldn’t turn loose, so the soldier ran along beside the train holding the old man up from the ground.  After running for about 200 feet, and all the employees of the Railroad blowing their whistles in a frantic effort to stop the train, the soldier and the old man (and the train also) came to a large pile of rocks that was close to the track, and so close that the soldier could get through between the pile of rock and train, so the only thing for him to do was to drop the old man and let luck come in take charge.  He did!  By this time the Engineer had received the danger signal and had slowed down the train, and it stopped in about 15 feet.  There the old man was hanging right over the tracks in the front part of the coach, and as he fell he rolled right under the train.  The train stopped, however, before the trucks from the rear part of the coach got to him, and it was only the train stopping right when it did that saved his life, for if the train had gone another 2 feet, it would have run right over him!

     I looked to my left and I could see some ships all camouflaged up, and I knew that we were really on the seacoast.  I was certainly glad, for it has always been one of the ambitions to live on the seacoast.

In front of the Casino is a very beautiful beach, but it isn’t good for swimming for the reason so much mud is there.  When the tide is high there is no mud to see, but when the tide goes out mud is visible out to the edge of the water.  The mud isn’t deep, only about a foot deep, and I’ve seen a great number of Frenchmen walking around in the mud pushing some small contrivance they have for catching shrimp. 

     You see a French policeman can’t enter my house unless he is accompanied by an American M.P. and an American M.P. can’t enter a French house unless he is accompanied by a French policeman.

     Each night one of the Field Clerks is on duty in the Office of the Chief Clerk from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.  There isn’t much to do, but sometimes the General wants something done is a hurry, and then we have to work but usually it is just a nice thing for this reason.  Our office hours are as follows:  Week days 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 – 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.  and Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 – 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

 While eating supper the next night I was told about the “stickers”.  They are German agents who stick people with pins upon the points of which is poison of such powerful strength that they die in a few minutes.  Pretty bad isn’t it?  They especially operate in street cars, so there is no danger of them operating around these parts, as a thing like a street car is something unheard of.

 This field clerk that we are boarding with mentioned to us that a picture show was to be given that night so we went to it.  It was my first time to go to a picture show, and I was rather keen on it.  The show started at 8:45 p.m. and it was Count de Monte Cristo and some other pictures that were written entirely in French.  I couldn’t read a word of what was coming next, but I managed to enjoy the show ‘after a fashion’ and was rather glad when it was over, for when I got outside and looked at my watch it was 11:30 p.m.  …….and we started out, and hadn’t gone more than 5 minutes when we decided that we were lost!  ……..it seems like it would be impossible to lose me in such a small town, for it really isn’t very large, but nevertheless we were lost for fair this time.  The only way we got straightened out on the matter was, we saw a large light ahead, about 3 blocks and we went to it.  …..and when we got to where we thought we were going, we were within half a block of our house!

French War Memorial

  

     …….the Place Marceau……  It is 2 blocks either way, as this picture shows, and these little stands are put up here 3 times a week by the French people.  They use this place as sort of public showroom or salesroom, and it is always crowded.  Sometimes there are so many people that they will crowd out into the streets……..It is a sight to see them, and to see the kind of goods they sell.  Some of the most outlandish contraptions come rolling up the square to unload their “messes”.  Some of them are little homemade wagons pulled by large dogs, others pull these wagons by themselves, while the richest of the crowd has a donkey to pull his wagon.  It is run much the same way as the markets in the States.  Each person has their own stall with their sign and everything.  The old lady with whom I roomed with at first had a stall in the market and she sold butter, eggs and chickens. 

     One of the Field Clerks suggested that we take in the “Fair” that was being held at the Place Marceau so I agreed and we went down.  The first thing that attracted our attention was large crowd around in a circle while which was roped off.  The crowd was throwing small rings at the bottles, and the idea was  to ring a bottle with one of the rings, and in doing so, one won whatever he threw the ring around.  The rings sold for 25 for f $1:00, which wasn’t so bad at that, do you think?  And another peculiar thing we saw, was a man standing in a large crowd of people …… telling them how good he was……..then he would pass his hat and take up a collection, and then he would take an ordinary deck of cards and tear it right half in two, and there wasn’t any fake to it, for he was standing right in front of you all the time.  Further down the line of attractions, we came to a glass blower stand.  ……. I then saw him make several little articles, and one of these impressed me so much that I bought it just after he finished making it, and before it had time to get cold.  It was a little bird. …………..Further down the line was a “Wild Animal Show”.....but one part was very good.  And that was the way the lion was trained.  The man would shoot at the lion with a pistol and then poke him with a little stick, and suddenly the would throw them both down and the lion would walk over to him and they would run up against each other………. Another great drawing card for the Americans was the skating rink.  ……… There were circle swings, on small scale, merry-go-rounds, and about all the shooting galleries that one could ever want to see, and the usual number of games of chance, and all sorts of exhibits that go with a collection of this kind.

     …… we were passed by a large automobile.  Some officer stuck his head out of the car and asked us if we wanted to ride.  …….. It was no less than a Cadillac 8 with Silverstone Cord Tires!  I say it rode!  And when the time came to get out I sure did hate to do it!

   

     We were not homesick, not one of us, and were eager for the next stage of the journey to begin. 

      ……we trudged along, and after about a half hour’s walk we came to the “British Rest Camp No. 2”.  It is a very nice place, and everything is as clean as could possibly be, and it is where all the troops come for a few days rest before going to the Front.

     …..we were told to turn in our blankets that had been issued to us the day before and get out baggage and be ready to leave at 4:30 p.m.  We had no idea in the world where we were going, but “we were on our way”!  We had to march a little further on this trip than we did when we were reporting to the Camp.  After so long a time we finally came to the Depot.  We lined up outside at one end and waited for our “special “train.  After a while the train was ready and we were ordered aboard.  We asked him where we were going and he told us we were going to Chaumont.  He said it was only 30 miles from the firing line and we would be able to hear the shells with ease. 

     He said we were entitled to something to eat, and the another one came up with lots of Corned Beef in cans, hard bread in paper cartons, some kind of jam, and canned tomatoes.  Can you imagine that for something to eat to carry on a trip on a train?  But we were soldiering and we had to make the best of it. 

     We came back across the tracks and the Captain lined us all up and gave us a short talk, and told us about how he wanted us to conduct ourselves as Gentlemen while on the trip and not get into any arguments with the French people, and said he wanted to make a good showing, and etc.  Just about the time he got finished we heard the biggest sort of screeching noise down the track and looked down and we saw a locomotive coming like the wind, but we could see no smoke, neither could we hear any bell.  We watched it as it came along closer, and found that it was ELECTRIC!   Imagine the French people being up to date enough to have an Electric Locomotive!

     While we were waiting for the train to start at Orleans we noticed the women at the station working.  They were doing absolutely all the that was being done except driving the engines, and then there was one woman who driving the engine that I made mention of on the preceding page.  All the men were in the Army…………

   ……but I’ll always remember how nice and kind these Red Cross workers were to us, and they’ll all have a warm place in my heart.  They were all ladies of about 30 on up and were just as nice and refined as anyone could ask of a person.  Later on I understood that all the Red Cross workers over here and only taken from the very nicest families in France, and they don’t receive one cent for their work – it is just donated to the Cause, and it is certainly donated in a good one too!

     The next day one of the Field Clerks died at the hospital and we had to attend the funeral.  I’ll never forget it as long as I live.  We were lined up and were marched to the hospital and then after the body was brought out we marched out to the cemetery which was quite a ways from the hospital.  A peculiar thing the French people do is when a hearse passes …..that the civilians and soldiers salute.  Isn’t that a strange way to do things?  The ceremony was very short but impressive, and I don’t think I want to go to very many funerals “comme cola”.

Black and white photo of Godbey reading a newspaper

This July 22, 1963 photo of Robert was published in the Miami Daily News Home Section.

Also published in the Aug 8, 1963 Miami Daily News Home Section is a picture of Robert with his award-winning Pink Shower tree, along with an article about his horticultural skills.

J B Ham

J.B. was born on a farm in what is called Windfall Country to Troy and Luna Ham. As a young boy he wanted to do and be many things in life. He worked on his dad’s farm, raising and selling green beans and tobacco to buy school clothing and a little spending money. His chore after school was chopping stove wood and carrying it in the house for his mom to cook with.

As soon as his chore was finished he would grab a shotgun. Luna would ask, “Where are you going?” J.B. would say, “Going squirrel hunting.” Once in awhile, he would kill one for his mom to make squirrel gravy. He didn’t have many hobbies except hunting and throwing a baseball against the barn pretending that he was Bob Feller. He always struck out the batter. He even struck out the famous retired Babe. Another of his hobbies was playing his Roy Rogers guitar and his favorite tune was a Carter family tune, Wildwood Flower, that became the South’s national anthem. He also did a lot of pencil drawings during class in high school.

When J.B. was a senior he visited colleges and his dad took him to Wake Forest to try and get him into architectural school. J.B. did house floor-plan drawings for his dad who was a house builder at that time. Troy; his dad, thought that J.B. had enough talent to be an architect. This plan didn’t work out, so J.B. decided to enroll in business school instead. His dad started working at the Ore Knob Mines as an electrician. Lo and behold, his dad got laid off or fired because he was a strong union man. The money dried up and so did school.

J.B. went to every business in Winston-Salem to try and get a part-time job. There was none to be had. After pondering his future, J.B. walked by the Air Force recruiting station, while job hunting. He enlisted in the USAF. This didn’t go very well with his future bride, Beryl. Neither did it please his mom and dad. J.B. figured that he would be drafted anyway, and he preferred the Air Force.

After training at Lackland AFB he and his sweetheart, Beryl, were married before he was sent to Massachusetts, to L.G. Hanscom Field which was an ARDC base, (Air Research and Development Command Base.) The military were there to protect and assist MIT and Cambridge Research Center.

During his time at Hanscom Field, J.B. did different jobs and helped supply the bunkers and fallout shelter for the scientist and engineers. Then his superiors found out that he had some business schooling and could half-way type, so he wound up with an office job in accounting.

J.B. was in the Air Force during the Cuban Crisis and Bay of Pigs  Invasion, the Berlin Crisis, and the first part of the Vietnam War. He didn’t have to fight in any of them. His last rank was A2C equal to today’s A1C. After his first enlistment term, his commanders tried day-after-day to get him to reenlist.  Because he and his wife, Beryl, had started a family, he decided to leave the Air Force when his four years was up.

J.B., Beryl and Robin moved to Delaware where he worked in accounting for four years before moving back to "God’s Country," Ashe County. He worked awhile at Sprague Electric and then got a job with Vannoy Construction as the bookkeeper. He attended Wilkes Community College at night and studied Architecture and Engineering on his own, while pricing and bidding on projects for Vannoy Construction. During this time J.B. and Beryl raised three children; Robin, Tim and Kim.

Then one day he was called into the ministry and served four different churches as a bi-vocational pastor. He currently is an assistant pastor at Big Springs Baptist Church. After semi-retiring from Vannoy Construction, the Lord helped him to fulfill dreams that he'd had since he was a boy. One was to be an artist and another was to be a writer.  When he was a senior in high school he even said that he wanted to be a pastor.

J.B. did not feel he was not a hero by any means. To him, those who had to fight and those who lost their lives were his heroes. The last verse in his poem a Tribute to the American Veterans sums up his military career ...."There were soldiers, sailors, airman, Coast Guard and Marines that never fought on foreign soil, in the air or on the sea. If need be they would have fought in their day. One thing is for sure, we were all proud to serve in the mighty military of the good old USA."

After leaving the USAF, he was a Cold War Veteran and a Vietnam Era Veteran.  JB enjoys painting and has written several books about the history of his family and growing up in Ashe County.  Here is a self-portrait of JB's service photo.

J.B. turned 80 years old last year and his children furnished him a patriotic birthday cake. J.B. and Beryl celebrated their 60th anniversary on February the third, 2019. They have been blessed by God, beyond measure and had a full life.

J.B., about half the time called Jay, has been an American Legion member for 18 years. His motto is the golden rule from the Bible: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

James E. Hamm and Troy E. Ham's Military and Government Service During WW2 (written by JB Ham)

James Hamm over in Germany (1944-45)

... brother of Earsie Ham Roland.

In the Year 1944, before the war ended in Europe, James E. Hamm, son of Troy and Luna Hamm, received his draft notice. His brother Garland had volunteered for the army but was turned down because he had only one good lung due to his pneumonia bout he had when he was a small boy. 

 

At that time, Troy Ham, James’s dad, was working at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the Atomic Power Commission as a government worker. James wrote his mom and dad a letter and told them that he had been drafted. Troy acquired a leave of absence and brought Luna and the small children home to see James off to the war. James with a cousin by the name of Marvin Wayne Greer and a neighbor named Odell Miller went to be examined. James and Marvin were placed in the Army and Odell was placed in the Marines. Odell’s older half brother Arlen had been killed in the North African Campaign and he wanted to take his place. Anyway, he didn’t have a choice, he had to go where he was sent. 


James and Marvin were placed in the infantry and sent to Europe and Odell was sent to the Pacific Campaign. Before James and Marvin made it to Europe the Germans surrendered. The war in Europe was over. James and Marvin became Military Police, serving as guards and they were separated and sent to different prisons. James was on a train headed to his guard duty and the Russians, not the Germans, captured the train. The train was held up for one week and the passengers couldn't leave or get off the train. Finally, the Russians let the train go. Meantime, the ship that James and Marvin went to Europe on broke into two parts on its way back to the U.S. 

James E. Ham

James Hamm as one of the guards at the prison was told if a prisoner escapes all he was required to do is bring back their shoes. The only problem, it was a women's prison and there were some mean women in the prison. He didn’t talk much about what happened but had nightmares years later. 


Guarding the prisoners and doing what he had to do got to him and he asked for a couple day’s leave and boy did he pull a drunk. He walked down the streets of Berlin shooting the lights out. That didn't go over too well with his superiors. 


In 1945, before James’s tour in Europe was up, Troy, James’s dad, watched the atomic bomb Fat Man being rolled out the door and loaded on a bomber headed for Japan where it was dropped on Nagasaki. Troy and his fellow workers donated a Sunday’s pay to purchase Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped the bomb. Troy worked for the government until he saw a woman get her leg burned off and her face and body disfigured with nuclear radioactive material. He asked for his discharge and it was granted. Troy Ham moved Luna and the young children back to Ashe County where he taught World War 2 veterans trades until all that wanted to learn had the opportunity to attend his classes. Troy didn’t wear a uniform but did his part during and after World War 2. Troy died in 1962 at the age of 62. 

 

In 1946, James E, Hamm finished his tour of duty in Europe, came home to Ashe County for a while and then went to Pennsylvania to work where he was engaged to a model from Philadelphia. Before the wedding James broke the engagement and moved. He eventually moved back to Ashe County and married Elaine Perry, daughter of Estel (a World War 2 veteran) and Elsie Perry. James died in 1990 at the age of 66. 

 

Troy E. Ham

Timothy C. Hamm (written by, JB Ham)

Timothy C. Hamm, son of J.B. and Margaret B. Calhoun Hamm, and a graduate of North West High School in Ashe County, decided to go in the Army after graduation. He as a young man wanted to serve his country. He grew up helping on the family farm and playing sports. His sports activities in school were wrestling and football. Tim’s hobbies while growing up were playing with his pet pigeon and dog, riding sleighs all winter and building tree houses. 


After being examined and entering the Army, he went through basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. After basic training at Fort Knox, Tim was sent to Fort Lee, Virginia. From Fort Lee he was sent to South Korea. While in South Korea he was in the Signal Battalion. His tour in Korea was an enjoyable and a great experience for him. After a year in Korea he was sent back to the United States to Fort Riley, Kansas, (Every soldier’s favorite base!?) 


Tim was then sent to Germany where he spent three months in horrible conditions. Germany wasn’t as enjoyable as Korea but it was part of being in the Army. Like all good soldiers he endured it. Then he was sent back to Fort Riley, Kansas. The Granada Crisis happened while he was in the Army, but he didn’t have to go to Granada. During Tim’s time in service he was promoted to the rank of E5 Acting Sergeant. 


After two years he was discharged with an honorable discharge. Tim came back to work in Ashe County. He met Sandra Viers and they were married not long after that. Tim and Sandy have two children; Brittany Hamm Woford and Lucas Tyler Hamm. They also have two grandchildren, Alysia and Adeline Woford. 


After a few years active in church and teaching Sunday School, Tim was called into the ministry. Tim answered his calling and is the current bi-vocational pastor of Big Springs Baptist Church. He is also working in the insurance industry full time. Tim is also a member of the American Legion.

Bill Hargett (submitted by daughter Karen Moll)

William M. (Bill) Hargett - pictured here in 2003

Date of birth: July 9, 1921. Date of death: October 22, 2005.

Military service: 1942 – 1948, Air Force Service Command, administrative / mechanic unit, European Theater.

Bill Hargett was born in Marshville, North Carolina, July 9, 1921, to Joseph Press Hargett and Mary Jane Strawn Hargett. He married another Marshville native, Gladys Helms, in 1949. They had two children: Karen, born 1954, and Bill born, 1957. He and Gladys lived on the family farm until they could no longer care for themselves; their son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Debbie Hargett, who also lived on the farm, provided many years of loving care but when 24/7 care was required they moved up to live with their daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Richard Moll, in Grassy Creek. Bill died in 2005 from complications of dementia and Gladys died in 2016 of multiple medical problems.

Bill was living on the farm outside of Marshville when he joined the army. After being inducted in early 1942 at age 21, he was ordered to Fort Bragg for basic training. After basic, he was sent to New York City to board a ship to England. He was assigned to the 9th Air Force Service Command which had two functions: 1.) supplying the 9th Air Force, and 2.) maintenance and major repair of airplanes and other equipment. He landed in Normandy D-Day +18, moving to St. Lo (71 miles from Normandy), then Belgium, Luxembourg, and finally Germany, ending up in Berlin.  (pictured here at his parent's house, the family farm outside of Marshville, NC)

Jack Hargett (Bill's brother) on December 12, 1944

Before boarding the ship for Europe, he had free time and visited several New York landmarks. A photographer saw Bill as he passed by his shop and asked him to come in for a picture. (NYC photographers made a lot of money taking pictures of soldiers before they left the States. Almost all soldiers wanted pictures to share with family so photographers stayed very busy.) He took several pictures of Bill in uniform.  With the last picture the photographer  adjusted Bill’s collar before snapping the picture.  This was Bill's favorite picture from the war. He didn’t receive the photos until 1944, in France, two years after they were taken.

Bill took mechanics courses early in his Army career, but with Bill’s business degree from King’s Business College in Charlotte 1940, he was ordered to the administrative offices of his outfit’s camp. He was responsible for ordering supplies dealing with airplane repair, transfer orders and requests, and other administrative duties. Bill loved telling the story of how his name appeared on a list to be transferred to a new unit being formed. He really didn’t want to leave his unit so he simply “missed” his name on the list. All the others on the list were transferred out but he remained (and his CO never said a word!) – he said this part of his job was one of the few perks of being in the army!

After being in France for a few months and after the worst fighting was over in the capital, soldiers often used their free time to become tourists. Bill and a buddy were in Paris visiting landmarks and saw this very attractive young lady coming towards them. Bill wanted to send home a picture of this woman standing with him. Not being very conversant in French, Bill pointed to his friend’s camera and said to the woman, “Photograph?” in “pigeon-French.” She smiled, said “Oui,” and Bill put his arm around her waist. The photograph was taken, the woman gave Bill a smile and a nod of her head, and then continued on her way. Bill was so proud of that photo and shared it with the folks back home. His mother said later that this photo really did prove “war is hell!”

Special Services Troupe Jaillon, France 1944

In Belgium, his outfit was bivouacked near a farm. Bill and his two best buds were befriended by the family who owned the farm. Being a farmer himself, he felt an instant connection with this family. The family gave the US soldiers fresh eggs, milk, and other food from time to time. (Typical of many European farmers, the family lived above the barn so the animals were always underneath. Bill said there was never any odor.) Neither “side” spoke the other’s language but with hand signals and drawing pictures of what they were trying to say, a friendship developed and continued throughout the length of the soldiers’ stay. The family often invited the three to supper. Bill said there was a lot of laughter because of the “pigeon French” and “pigeon English” spoken, and a general fondness for each other was evident. (This family’s main crop was Brussels sprouts. Bill completely lost his taste for Brussels sprouts after eating meal after meal of this vegetable. After moving on, he never ate another Brussels sprout again.) The family had survived the war fairly well but pictures Bill took of the devastation showed they had suffered. There is a picture of Bill with a buddy and the farmer’s extended family. The kids were always happy to see “their soldiers” who often brought chocolate for the children and cigarettes for the adults.

Belgium 1944

Belgium 1944

Bill shared the story about wanting to fly. It was something he had wanted to do for a long time and the army seemed to provide a great opportunity. The first two times he applied, he got as far as the physical exams and was told on the first exam that he had a thyroid cyst so he failed the exam. A year later he reapplied, and in that physical exam nothing was mentioned about the cyst but he failed again because of something else. He tried a final time in 1944 after D-Day. So many pilots had lost their lives and the army was getting desperate to find replacements. Bill thought he was a shoe-in for sure because of the need for pilots. He once again made it to the physical exam part and . . . failed a third time for another reason, and again the first two reasons he failed were not mentioned. (The family does not remember what these last two medical issues were.) Bill said he finally realized that God must have had a reason for him not to fly, and failing the physical exam three times was the sign God was giving him.

Bill was honorably discharged in 1948 as a Tech Sergeant (T SGT) after being stationed in Germany during the first years of Allied occupation.

Bill’s family was not immune to losing a loved one during the war years. Bill’s younger brother, Jack Hargett, was drafted in July 1944, and died of a sniper’s bullet near Bruckhausen, Germany, while crossing the Rhine River in early 1945. Bill visited the Henri Chappelle Cemetery near Brussels, Belgium, where Jack was interred. He was buried in this cemetery until his remains were exhumed in early 1948 and sent home to Marshville. Bill was granted leave to come home for Jack’s service. His mother said she was happy and sad at the same time: “One son came home and one son didn’t.” (The Henri Chappelle Cemetery No. 1 still exists and is beautifully maintained to this day. There were 17,235 American soldiers buried in the cemetery, the largest at that time. Yearly remembrances are held for those American liberators by local townspeople.)

Bill often said that he probably shouldn’t have made it home alive. He was not on the front lines but close enough to hear gunfire and bombs falling. However, the men in his outfit rarely had to shoot their guns.  But when they heard German aircraft, they took their pistols and shot at the planes returning to base after their missions. The Germans apparently weren’t too worried since the gunfire never came close to hitting the planes.

The reactions of those under occupation made Bill and his fellow servicemen proud to be Americans. They were showered with flowers, treated to food and wine, and made to feel very welcomed in the towns and countryside they traveled through. They felt they had had a real purpose in being over there and that they had met their goal.

 

Around 1990, Bill stopped at the Wagon Wheel in Marshville, the local diner and a landmark still in operation today. A local family friend sat down and told Bill that he had wrestled with telling the Hargetts that he had seen Jack the day he died. He told him he saw Jack sitting on the bridge over the Rhine shortly before he died. He stopped and asked Jack if he was all right.  Jack told him he was just resting. The family friend found out later that Jack had been shot in the chest and was probably in shock when he saw him. Bill’s parents were consoled that a local boy who was also a good friend was probably the last man Jack saw.

Bill became good friends with the men in his outfit. He, like his brother Jack, never met a stranger. Like many others, he lost touch with those with whom he had served. After the war, in the early 1960’s, he called the operator at the Marshville phone company and asked to be connected to the operator in Hendersonville, North Carolina. (This was, of course, in the days before cell phones and the Internet.) The connection was made and Bill was given the phone number of one of his buddies, Foy Garren. The two men immediately recognized each other’s voice. Gladys and the kids were gathered around Bill – calling all the way to the mountains was a very big deal back then! – and their friendship resumed after 20 years. They made plans for a small reunion involving both families. The Hargett and Garren families became very close and took turns visiting each other for years. Both sets of kids remain good friends; Foy’s oldest daughter Lynn and Bill’s daughter Karen stay in contact at least a couple of times a year. Foy is still living at 95 years of age. (Mr. Garren’s war years are chronicled in Paul Sailer’s book, “I Had a Comrade," published by Lodin Books.)

Bill often said that his years in the military were the best times and the worst times of his life. He was serving his country, he had the opportunity to visit different countries and he made friends in every place he was stationed, but he also saw the tragedies for soldiers and local families who were caught in the middle of this conflict. Bill very rarely shared the stories of these tragedies, becoming very quiet and sad when viewing a TV program about the war.

 

After discharge, Bill returned home to the family farm, farming until he started working with his dad in the family’s sawmilling business. As with most service men upon discharge, he went to work, married, had children, and returned to life as usual. It took a period of time before Dad could settle in to the normalcy of civilian life, though he fortunately did not have the nightmares and other problems related to PTSD, as far as anyone knew.

After returning home, he enjoyed getting reacquainted with family and friends. His high school French came in handy during the war; however, at a high school reunion a couple of years after returning home, his French teacher said she was glad Bill had at least a limited working knowledge of the language but said “Billy Hargett barely passed” her class so she was impressed that he managed to do as well as he did with the language.

It’s been said that Bill and Jack never met a stranger, always had a joke or good word to share, and made friends wherever they went. Bill often remarked that Jack had more of a happy-go-lucky attitude than he did and he admired the way Jack got along with everyone. Bill probably had a little “survivor’s guilt” because he came home from the war while his baby brother died over there. He only occasionally spoke of this devastating tragedy and the loss he felt many years after the war. When he did speak about Jack, he spoke in a softer voice than normal, the pain of that loss coming through his words. His mother became a Gold Star Mother, presiding over the Union County chapter for several years after the war. The Town of Marshville dedicated a section of the Marshville Cemetery and placed a marker with the names of the Marshville boys who served in WWII. Asterisks are by the names of those family and friends who gave their all for their country.

John Huck (interviewed by Troy Brooks)

“Only a submariner realizes to what great extent an entire ship depends on him as an individual. To a landsmen, this is not understandable and is sometimes difficult for us to comprehend, but it is so. A submarine at sea is a different world in itself, and in consideration of the protection and assistant operation in submarines the Navy must place responsibility and trust in the hands of those who take each ship to sea.” 

Thus was the life of U.S. Navy Veteran John Huck. Born in Long Beach, California, John went to school at Lakewood High School, where he was heavily involved in cub and boy scouts. From a young age, John was raised to be independent, learning how to back himself up and make informed decisions on his own, a mindset that would serve him well throughout his life. During high school and junior college, he began work at McDonalds, where he became night manager after only six months before he was 18. After about three years, he would leave to work for an electronics company, following his chosen education in school. 

It was around this time that the war in Vietnam was getting serious. Several of John’s friends had already been killed and the military was in need of new recruits.  With support from his family, John enlisted into the United States Navy. His military career began with boot camp in San Diego, and it was there he met several officers looking for men to volunteer for submarines. Knowing that he would be less likely to face combat at sea, John volunteered for the service. 

John enjoyed great support from his family for his decision, including his two brothers and sisters. His father had also served in the navy during WW2. 

John's father, Alexander Edward Huck

When John told his father that he had volunteered for submarines, his father didn’t talk to him for three days. During WW2, he had maintained airplanes on ships that were specially designed to bomb surfacing submarines and the thought left him depressed for some time. However, John explained to his father that the nuclear submarines he would be serving on could stay 2,000+ feet below the surface for months at a time, lifting his father’s fears.

 

Due to his background in electronics, John was selected to become a fire control technician for ballistic missile submarines. After boot camp he married and traveled with his new wife straight across the country to Dam Neck, Virginia, to the Polaris A School of Electronics to learn about missile operations and launching. 

Once his education was finished, he boarded his first submarine, the USS Daniel Boone, SSBN 629, thus beginning 26 years under the seas.  

As a fire control technician, John’s main job was to monitor and maintain the electronic equipment needed to launch the ship’s nuclear warheads. Crew members would rotate through six hour periods with 12 hour breaks in between to make sure men were ready to launch at all times. Drills were carried out day and night, sometimes making sleep difficult. Meals were served four times a day.

The most important aspect of John’s job was keeping every piece of equipment up to date, as sometimes the slightest change could alter a missile’s path. 

“When you are launching a missile off a ship 3,000 plus miles away, you have to think about all the things that could make a difference,” said John. “What direction is the ship going? Which way is it rocking.What’s the altitude or depth? What was the wind and weather like? There were 70 plus things that had to be monitored. In addition we had to make sure that everything was working correctly. If something malfunctioned, the problem had to be fixed quickly so we could always be ready to launch. You were never just sitting around drinking coffee, however they did have good coffee on submarines.” 

During his career, he would serve on 6 different submarines, including the USS Daniel Boone, USS John Adams, USS James Madison, USS Nathan Hale, USS Woodrow Wilson, USS Mariano G. Vallejo, and the USS John C. Calhoun. He served at several locations included San Diego, Cal; Dam Neck, Va; Pearl Harbor, HI, Pensacola FL, Charleston, SC; and Jacksonville, FL, 

The isolation at sea did make communication with family difficult. While his wife could communicate several times when he was on duty, he had difficulty answering back. Every base had a chaplain who would offer to take letters and cards that John and other crew member had written and mail them to friends and family. While at sea, John’s closest company would only be he fellow crew members. 

“The ships were large compared to their WW2 counterparts. Everybody got along and you were not allowed to fight. If there was somebody you did not like, you just ignored them. And if you did have problems with someone, you dealt with everything calmly. One time after a patrol, another crew member and I each got a six pack of beer, sat on the beach and talked everything out.”

John’s life wasn’t just spent out at sea. Each submarine had two different crews that traded operations. While one crew was at sea, the other would be retraining and using the time to relax and recover from the previous outing. As an avid fishermen, John always looked forward to using that time to fish. While serving in Hawaii for several years, John would arrange a fishing trip for Submarine Forces Pacific. The group of "fishermen" consisted of young enlisted men, officers, and commanders. 

In fact, recreation was one of John’s favorite specialties during his service. From setting up golf tournaments to organizing dances, John always tried to give the crew a good time, a side job that he quickly became passionate about. While offshore, John was also heavily involved with the community. Going back to his childhood roots, he became involved with local scouting groups, talking to younger scouts about different ideas of life while helping older scouts work for the top levels. He also assisted in funding for these local groups. 

John would find himself returning to Dam Neck to learn new missile technical and computer systems. He became an instructor at the Naval Education and Training Program Center in Pensacola Florida and thanks to his background on different computer and missile systems, John was tasked with rewriting several instruction books and manuals on the numerous systems he was familiar with while also writing books for completely new systems from scratch. He would also serve in Hawaii at the Naval Sub Training Center as an instructor. 

John's military career remained relatively peaceful without a single day of combat. However, there was one occasion that made him and the rest of the crew uneasy. 

“We were there for the cold war. We were the big bombs hanging over Russia and other countries. If they attacked us and sent nuclear weapons to the states, our job was to blow up the other side of the world. One day we had a drill come up and it was treated as an actual launching. Everything got carried down to seconds within the launch. I remember standing in my place for it. I was crying and everyone else was crying, afraid that the United State had been blown up. Then at the last second it was canceled and everyone sighed in relief. However, what was honorable in it was that everybody on board was willing to launch the missiles.” 

For John, the navy life wasn’t a difficult adjustment. It was his style to move right up into leadership. Always pushing himself to be at the top, he would eventually obtain his highest rank of Chief Petty Officer. His ultimate aim was to become a Master Chief Petty Officer, but due to the limited number of positions in that ranking, the last position had already been taken one year prior to the end of his service. With his 26 years finished, John’s career in the navy came to a close. He was transferred to the fleet reserves on May 31, 1993, for three years but would never be called back out to sea.  

John’s interest in electronics didn’t end with his service. He would work for several other companies, providing support and repair work for electronics and tools for many years before finally retiring in the late 1990s. Even then, he was still left with a thirst for adventure. During his free time in the summer, he would take his camper and take off on long road trips around the United States and collect gems, rocks and minerals. 

John’s time in the navy wasn’t just a job; it was a lifelong adventure. 

“My best advice to someone going into the military is to decide which organization they want to go into. Talk to someone who is in that branch. Do research and make sure it's something you want to do. But most importantly do it as a career. If you go and serve your country, make it a life experience.”

John Huck is being advanced to Chief Petty Officer.

Virgil Joiner (interviewed by Katy Cotten)

Virgil Joiner was born in Baton Rouge, LA on November 17, 1948.  He now lives in Grassy Creek, North Carolina. His granddaughter, Katy Cotten, recorded these memories of his military service during the Vietnam War.

Virgil enlisted in the Air Force, serving December 1966 - August 1973.  He completed Basic Training in Amarillo, Texas. He also took some college courses while in the Air Force at University of Indiana where he trained as a linguist, becoming fluent in Russian and Lao languages.  He was assigned to a special communications group, 6922nd Squadron out of San Antonio, TX and stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.  He was also assigned to the 6990th Security Group when stationed in Okinawa, Japan.  

Virgil says he enlisted because he didn't want to go to college and he chose the Air Force because it looked the easiest. His father was relieved, since he didn't have to pay for college. He also overheard a woman once saying that Air Force guys are nicer than other branches.  Some character traits highlighted in basic training were; attention to detail, military courtesy, and discipline. 

One vivid memory of basic training was of running for miles in cold weather.  "Not used to the cold and dry climate of Amarillo, running made your lungs burn so bad that it caused foaming at the mouth!"   Another memory was during survival school training in Spokane Washington.  "There was simulation of being taken as a POW and you were isolated.  They tried to trick you into giving the U.S. a bad name."

During survival training, men were assigned twelve to a group and given minimal equipment.  They had to make things out of parachutes, such as; tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags. "Once while walking we came across a snowshoe rabbit and everyone attacked it. The rabbit escaped, outsmarting all of us.”   The best part of the survival experience was at sea, practicing parachute landing in the water.  "It was like going to the beach, beautiful and warm."

The worst part of training was the mean discipline technique that the instructors used.  They would insult you, yell at you, and make big deals out of small things. You had to keep your mouth shut and say “Yes sir!”

Virgil recalls when once his unit was called to attention, they lined up so badly that they had to do it again.  They had to check to be sure all soldiers had their boots latched.  When the National Anthem began to play, everyone snapped to attention, a U.S. flag was raised, and everyone had tears in their eyes ... “You don't really appreciate America until you are somewhere else."

Keeping a friend was not easy, they are only around for a short time.  On base since there were two people to a room, your roommate was your closest friend.  Most friends were linguists .. met in Lao language training.

“During off-time I mostly wrote letters to my parents.  I brought a typewriter and tape recorder to send recordings and letters.  While in Texas, we would occasionally go off to the boondocks to practice shooting and ride motorcycles.  We rarely went out drinking.  In the Philippines we would practice with bows and arrows.  When stationed in Okinowa, I loved to snorkel in the South China Sea.  I once had a German Shepard puppy, named Pup.  I spent a lot of time walking Pup and chasing balls.”

A humorous event was remembered from Lacklan Air Force Base in San Antonio.  His whole unit was already there while he was in Amarillo for training.  He rode up to Lacklan later with a friend in a Volkswagen Beetle with flower stickers all over it. Someone called them “hippies.”

Though they were taught to bail aircraft, they never thought of anything bad ever happening.  The majority of Air Force never got on a plane.  A flying assignment meant you were part of an elite group. Virgil enjoyed flying … “I was an analyst communicator.  I communicated to the ground.  It was a fairly laid-back, easy position … lots of waiting.”

Virgil decided not to reenlist after his time in Okinawa.  He was worried about forgetting things, but when he got home it wasn't a big deal.  “You had to pick up where you left off, but all my high school friends were gone.  It was kind of tough without friends.”

He decided to work in small jobs at first, for a concrete block plant, digging ditches for water pipes, etc…  On reflecting back over those years Virgil realized that he entered the military at age 18 and left at age 25.

“Those were my formative years.  I grew up in the Air Force.  Attitudes and ways of approaching things came from being in the military.  For example, you should obey rules even if you don’t agree with them and there needs to be a boss.  Being in the military taught me to REALLY love our country and the flag.  I have a lot of respect for older veterans … more than someone who hasn’t served.  I have tremendous respect for decorated veterans.”

One important life lesson came from an incident while stationed in the Philippines.  “One Saturday someone set a typewriter on my desk where it wasn’t supposed to go.  I went to move the typewriter and picked it up wrong, dropping it.  I fixed it and forgot about it until Monday when a tech sergeant asked me about it. I lied and said I didn’t know what happened.  Soon there was an investigation and someone covered for me, but finally I confessed that I had dropped it.  Luckily the sergeant said okay and that was the last of it.  What I learned then was; always tell the truth!”

Richard L Kennedy (interviewed by Richard "Trey" Kennedy III)

Richard Kennedy was born in Kentucky on February 5, 1940.  He voluntarily joined the Air Force on December 1960 and served until December 1988.  He was discharged as a Senior Master Sergeant (E-8), earning awards for Marksmanship, Good Conduct, and Meritorious Service.   During Vietnam he was a part of the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing and over the course of his military career he also spent time in Germany, France, New Mexico, Thailand, Korea, and Florida, U.S.

What was your first assignment after basic training?

I was assigned to Bien Hoa Air Base in South-Central southern Vietnam, it was the first operational ground base.

Did you qualify with equipment?

I learned to drive military vehicle …tractor trailer that we carried the missiles on…Weapons carrier and also small personnel carriers

Did you receive any promotions?

When I first started I made $37 a month. My first promotion had one stripe and slight increase in pay.  I was promoted over a period of 16 years I went from an E1 which is entry level to an E8 which was next to the highest level. My title I retired with was Senior Master Sargent.

What was the hardest part of training?

Learning from a book about a military aircraft. I had to look at pictures and imagine what it would be like to do that…had to teach myself.

Where you in combat, combat support, or combat service support role?

I was in a support role…I carried guns but I was not in the jungle like the others. I was at the base working on the aircraft and bombs.

What kind of friendships did you form while serving?

I made friends especially if I would get there in January and they would get there in January. But when you were assigned for only 6 months and they were gone after that, it was hard to keep up with them. I didn’t understand friendships and I had very little social skills. I didn’t have many real friends

What did you do for recreation or when you were off duty?

We would go into town…to the bars mostly… and I would go to the tailor shops.  They made silk shirts and suits. It was the thing to have. Silk was hot but it was the same price as getting cotton here. I had a lot of good clothes.

Were there any funny or comedic events that happened while you were in service

I remember ordering food in restaurants and I didn’t know what I was getting. One time I ordered and I ended up getting frog legs and other times I would order stuff I never knew what I was eating…but I ate it!

 

Richard worked on the Air Force First Ground to Air Missiles.  This missile had a jet engine as opposed to the computer guided missiles.  Some of these missiles included the MACE and the Matador.

One hard memory about Vietnam was of a night in the barracks and the sound of a lot of explosions.  "We thought they was being bombed.  Turned out one of the men working on the planes/bombs was removing the detonating part of the bomb.  To prevent the enemy from getting the bomb, it was set up that if you turn the end of the bomb one way it would come off.  IF you turned off the wrong way it would explode.    Turned out that one of the men working on the bomb turned it wrong and it exploded.  The explosion set off a chain reaction.  The next day I was assigned to help recover what was left of the men who died in the massive mistake."

How did you stay in touch with family and friends?

We wrote letters back then. My family wrote to me but I didn’t answer much because I didn’t understand the social skills that I needed to reply.

Mace was an improved version of the Matador. Like its predecessor, the Matador, the Mace was a tactical surface-launched missile designed to destroy ground targets. It was first designed as the TM-76 and later the MGM-13. It was launched from a mobile trailer or from a bomb-proof shelter by a solid-fuel rocket booster which dropped away after launch; a J33 jet engine then powered the missile to the target.

What was the best part of your service experience?

Working as a Scout leader with the Boy Scouts in Vietnam/France/New Mexico/Florida. We went camping with the Boy Scouts in France a little way from the base. That was when the Summer Olympics was going on…there were Boy Scouts from five countries …France, Germany, England, United States, and Vietnam.  We taught a lot of stuff, learned a lot of stuff, and created obstacle courses for the kids. It was so much fun.

In Korea I helped at an Orphanage off-base.  The amazing thing is we had to go beyond the Off-Limits area - This is an area you were not allowed to set foot in near the base.   So we had to take a bus to the downtown area in Korea to help at the orphanage.  I really enjoyed this and was recognized by the orphanage leader.

The favorite things about the military:  Spending a lot of time in New Mexico and Florida.  I loved the Scouts and leading.  I also loved the Orphanage and serving and helping the kids and leaders there.

Do you recall the day your service ended?

They let me retire 60 days before my end date and I went to Home Depot and started working there the next day. I retired from there 14 years later.

Did the GI Bill support your education?

It did in part but not fully.

Trey with his grandfather, Richard Lee Kennedy

Three Kennedys - L to R: Richard II, Richard Sr.,

and Richard (Trey) III

Reggie Keys

Reggie Keys was born on September 14, 1947 and grew up in Fig, a small community located in the northern part of Ashe County, North Carolina.  His father was a farmer and his mother a housewife.  Reggie had two older sisters (Helen and Margie), one older brother (Carl aka Sam), and two younger brothers (Dewey and Bill).   Before entering the service he worked at Sprague Electric.  He was drafted into the Army in 1968 and was expected to be sent to South Vietnam after training, but then Russia invaded the Czech Republic and his orders were changed to Germany. 

Reggie's basic training began at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and later in Fort Polk, Louisiana.   The hardest part of training was the long walks through sand on hills.  "It was not easy climbing sandy hills while wearing heavy combat boots."  It was also a big challenge to carry another man for 100 yards.

It was the winter of '68 when he found himself in Germany, not far from Munich as part of the third armored division.   While in Germany, Reggie was sent to communications school.  He remembers spending a majority of the time shoveling snow in the mornings and attending classes in the afternoons.  He spent two Christmases overseas and it seemed to snow constantly ... every day!!!  During down time, Reggie (far left) and his fellow soldiers enjoyed a night on the town in German clubs.   

German girl band.

Reggie also loved to relax with a good western.  "Reading helps to get your mind off of things like missing home and military stress."  It was during his time in Germany that he discovered Louie L' Amour, when he found a copy of Daybreakers at a little bookstore.

Out for a day in Munich.

BIG machinery!

Oops!!  Someone flipped a tank!

Reggie showing features of his company's tanks on a special community day. 

Reggie_Keys

After finishing his service time, Reggie flew back to the states in April of 1970 and a family friend, Tommy Rash, picked him up from the airport.   Reggie says, "After serving you have more concern for your country and for the most part, the experience changes you for the better.  You don't come home the same .. you're more mature, you have stronger patriotic feelings." 

"I am glad to have went.  The U.S. needs a strong military ... you realize how important this is when you visit another country, it is something you have to have.  It was an honor to serve and after this experience I am more sensitive to criticism of those in service."

Today Reggie is actively involved in his community.  He serves as a volunteer board member for Riverview Community Center and is a member of the Riverview Lions Club.

Reggie's grandfather Benjamin B. Brown fought on both sides during the Civil War.  After his first wife died he married  Jennie Price, Reggie's grandmother.

Joe Lyle (interviewed by Leigh Mckenzie)

Billy Joe Lyle was the youngest of five brothers and one sister born on May 27,1945 in  Jefferson, NC.

 

 

Joe began working at Frank's Grocery after school when he was thirteen years old.  He worked all through high school in the summers picking beans to sell locally.  This was a full day's work and brought 50 cents per bushel. 

Joe also worked in the textile field at Cannon Mills before he was drafted.

Joe and his brothers, Brian and Eddie were all drafted into the Army.  Brian served during the Korean conflict and Eddie in Germany.

Joe's basic training took place in Fort Jackson, followed by additional sixteen weeks in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston Medical Center.  Then another sixteen weeks of on-the-job training at Fort Jackson Army Medical Facility.     He enrolled for an additional three months of training as an emergency technician. Joe received orders for Vietnam, but after all the time he spent training, he didn't have enough time left to go for a full tour.

When not working, Joe relaxed with fellow GIs ... shooting pool and drinking beer.

Joe worked state-side in hospitals, taking care of trainees and wounded soldiers.  Joe saw an estimated 40,000 trainees and 13,000 defendants.  He worked in the central dispensary during the day and in the emergency room at night.  He worked for awhile at Edgewood Arsenal in Aberdeen Maryland.  The purpose here was to evaluate the impact of low-dose chemical warfare agents on military personnel and to test protective clothing and pharmaceuticals.  When his time here was finished Joe headed back to South Carolina for debriefing and then on to home.

Joe lost a lot of photos and military memorabilia in a house fire, but still had original copies of his meal ticket, liberty pass, and driving license.  He remembers driving an old car that wouldn't pass inspection, so he kept it parked in the woods to avoids the MPs.  When asked to reenlist, naturally he turned the offer down.  When he left the service, Joe had intentions of keeping military friendships going, but everyone lived far away and he was busy concentrating on adjusting back into civilian life.

Joe qualified to be an NCO and left the military as a Sergeant E5.  When reflecting on his service time, Joe says, "Military itself is essential, but uh, war ... most wars are political, they are unnecessary.  Most all wars are unnecessary."

Joe and his wife Suzie (Calloway) ... then & now

Joe, Suzie, and their two children; Priscilla and Jason.

Proud grandparents of Aaliyah

Today Joe enjoys spending time making unique instruments and painting. 

Jack Lynch

Jack D. Lynch graduated boot camp on his eighteenth birthday, September 26, 1955, at Great Lakes, Illinois.

 

 

After boot camp, Lynch volunteered for aviation and was assigned to the VP-56 Patrol Squadron at N.A.S. Norfolk, VA.

During his time in the service, Lynch worked as a mechanic on Martin P5M Sea Planes.

VP-56 was the first squadron to operate on the Mediterranean Sea in 1956, assisted by the USS Currituck (AV-7), which was converted to sea plane tender. He was assigned to Plane Crew #11 as the first mechanic in February 1957.

Lynch transferred to a Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland. in July,1957. He worked on jet aircraft such as the F8U seen here, which took pictures of missiles in Cuba.

Lynch was honorably discharged on September 25, 1958, one day before his twenty-first birthday. He married his sweetheart Eva Anderson on February 14, 1959. They have one son, two daughters, and four grandchildren.

 Lynch is a member of the American Legion Post-275 in Lansing, North Carolina.

 

"I thank God for each day," - Jack D. Lynch

 

Ken Lynn

Lt. Colonel Ken Lynn at Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia, 2001

4th Maintenance Group Commander Colonel Ken Lynn and Santa, Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, December 2005

Colonel Ken Lynn (retirement), 2007

Colonel Lynn's Service History

Walter Jack Poe

Walter Jack Poe was born in Lansing, North Carolina on October 30, 1929 to Florence and Walter Wade Poe.  He graduated from Lansing High School.  Jack enlisted in the United States Navy on April 30, 1048, serving during the Korean War.  While in the Navy, he traveled the world.  His highest rank in the Navy was first class fireman. Jack had three brothers who also served in the Navy.  After his Navy career, Jack worked at Sprague Electric Company and retired with more than thirty years of dedicated service.  Jack currently lives in Lansing with his wife of sixty -seven years, June Riddle Poe. He has three daughters, Cathy Barr, Deborah Church, and Tina Poe and four grandsons, Jeremy Robert Barr, Joseph Brandon Ashley, Daniel Jack Barr, and Luke Wade Poe.

Jack enlisted in the Navy in 1948 at the age of eighteen, and served through 1951.  This picture was taken at Wakeen, Wisconsin when Jack graduated from boot camp. 

While home on leave, Jack went out with a friend and accidentally left his Navy credentials in the car.  When he got back to Norfolk, Virginia's Naval Base he was asked for his paperwork to be allowed back.  Of course without identification he was denied access, so he did the only thing he could ,,, he hitchhiked from Norfolk, Va to Lansing, NC and back, to retrieve his credentials. When asked where he had been he replied "You don't want to know!"   

Jack says that his service years taught him to "be on time, learn to get along, and if you have to bite the bullet .... bite it!"  There were many places Jack went while in the Navy; Europe, north of Europe, England, Scotland, France, and Ireland's Slane Castle. He says, "It was worth it because you learn so much from other countries and cultures."

Jack's main job at sea was working in the engine room, two decks below sea level.  He had to maintain the ship's speed to coincide with the speed of planes taking off and landing on the flight deck above.  He talked about  the tension and fear of being in the engine room during battle.  "There were hatches that had to remain tightly closed.  These hatches remained under armed guard, not to be opened until cease fire, in order to protect the ship from sinking." 

Here Jack points to the big wheels he had to turn while monitoring the ship's speed. 

Jack is seated fourth from the left on the front row of his group.  He says that the men in his division became like brothers and were very close.  There were also fifty Marines on board to guard the captain and the ship's brig.

The Navy took command of the seas with Battlewagons.  These battleships are large armored warships with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns (18 inch barrels)  Jack's exposure to the deafening blast of these big guns left him with severe hearing loss.   

This ship "The Mighty Mo," U.S.S. Missouri BB-63 was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II.

Big motor boats were used to transport sailors to shore, and sometimes the fog was so thick you couldn't see a thing.  Jack remembers jumping into the water to save a fellow soldier who had fallen off the boat.  Luckily, they were both rescued.

The crew of the U.S. Navy  aircraft carrier  USS Leyte (CV-32) spells out the name of the ship at an unidentified location. Note the Grumman F9F-2 Panthers of fighter squadron VF-31 Tomcatters positioned on the after end of the flight deck.  This is the ship Jack was assigned to, dated in this photo 1950. 

USS Leyte saw action during the Korean War and was the deployment ship for VF-32, a F4U Corsair Squadron. Among the pilots of this fighter squadron were two notable naval aviators, Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, the first African American pilot in the US Navy, and Lieutenant Thomas Jerome Hudner, Jr., a future Medal of Honor recipient. 

In September 1950, USS Leyte joined Task Force 77 to support the United Nations Forces on the Korean peninsula. In late November, VF-32 was dispatched to provide close-air support for the US Marines under attack at Chosin Reservoir. On Dec 4, 1950, ENS Jesse L. Brown was shot down on a remote mountain top in Korea. His wingman, LT Thomas Hudner, Jr., crash-landed his plane in an effort to assist ENS Brown. His efforts were unsuccessful and the rescue attempt abandoned when darkness fell. 

ENS Brown received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in Korea while LT Hudner received the Medal of Honor for his attempt to rescue ENS Brown. Both men have been honored with ships in their name: USS Jessie L. Brown (FF-1089) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-16).

Cathy Barr with her father Jack Poe.

Ashe County Marathon Jam

The Ashe County Marathon Jam has been an annual event since 2016.  This event honors veterans by presenting  handmade patriotic quilts, crafted by the Ashe County Piecemakers Quilt Guild.  Musicians gather at the Ashe Arts Center beginning at 12:00 noon and jam until midnight on Armed Forces Day (in 2019, May 18)  

Sponsored by the New River Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, the Marathon Jam raises money to benefit Fisher Houses in Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. 

Since 1991 Fisher Houses have been serving military families during times of medical crisis. These comfort homes are built by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., and given as gifts to the Military Services and the Veterans Administration. The Fisher House Foundation was established by noted philanthropist and patriot Zachary Fisher and his wife, Elizabeth. Zachary passed away in June 1999, but his nephews, Arnold and Tony Fisher, and his great-nephew, Ken Fisher, continue to build Fisher Houses and carry on Zachary's legacy of helping military men and women and their families.  These Fisher Houses are within walking distance of VA Hospitals and Wounded Warrior Complexes. They are a comfortable temporary home, filled with warm, caring people who help family members endure the stresses associated with a loved one's serious medical condition. The Fisher House enables families to stay together, cook meals, do laundry, and relax in a "home away from home" atmosphere. There are no other facilities on military installations that provide this caring, compassionate environment. Fisher Houses do not receive tax money or military dollars. Charitable contributions provide the majority of our funding.

The primary goal of The Marathon Jam is to hold an annual fundraiser, for which we are named.
The Marathon Jam gathers musicians and artists of all ages and styles to play music and create art for twelve straight hours, with the musicians generating donations by securing sponsors for each hour they participate in the jam.

Since 2009, the recipients of this annual fundraiser have been the Fort Bragg Fisher House and Camp Lejeune Fisher House both in North Carolina. They are wonderful “comfort homes” where families can stay at no cost while a military loved one is receiving medical treatment.

Deeanna Burleson, USAF

Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom

Seema Reza - Chair of Community Building Arts Works (CBAW)

CBAW is a charitable organization that builds healthy and connected communities where veterans and civilians share creative expression, mutual understanding, and support.

Poem by Seema from her book:  A Constellation of Half-Lives

Quartering

Richard Calloway (with granddaughter Elizabeth)

Army and National Guard - Vietnam and Desert Storm

Valerie Hurley receiving quilt for Ernest Blevins, USMC - WWII

Mary Jones, USAF and USAF Reserves - Cold War

Jim Gambill, Army and National Guard - Korea and Desert Storm

Joel Davis, USMC - Vietnam

Tom Northrup, USMC - Vietnam

Jack Poe, USN - Korea

Don Long, Army - Cold War

Jonathan Sage, USN - Vietnam

Scott Sears

Scott Sears graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1966, holding degrees in physics and economics.  After a few years learning the submarine business, he earned two advanced degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971.  In his 29-year military career, Scott held numerous leadership as well as technical positions. He commanded the Los Angles class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Albuquerque, and spent more than three years as a program Manager at the Naval Sea Systems Command where he oversaw development of the combat system for the Seawolf class attack submarine.  in 1992, he took command of the 7,000-member Naval Undersea Warfare Center, where he was responsible for leading the nation's premier undersea research, development, and engineering organization.  Scott retired from the Navy in 1995, and spent several years working for AT&T, General Dynamics, and Raytheon.  He moved to Warrensville, NC with his wife, Barbara in 2007.

United States Navy Rear Admiral, Scott L. Sears with wife Barbara Sears at his retirement ceremony on August 31, 1995.

Flanked by ceremonial British Revolutionary War Troops, Admiral and Mrs.Sears head to the commissioning of the USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740), an Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine, on July 9,1994 in Newport, Rhode Island.    

Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery

for Rear Admiral Scott L. Sears. 

Rear Admiral Scott Sears witnesses a U.S. submarine surfacing through the ice at the Navy Arctic Submarine Laboratory at the North Pole.

The USS Albuquerque prepares for Commander Sears'

change of command ceremony on December 3, 1986.

David Sexton

David Munrow Sexton was born on July 25, 1948 and grew up in Ashe County at his family's homeplace on Frank Dillard Road. He remembers when he got his draft letter ... "I was working in Tennessee and came home for the weekend to visit mom.  She pulled this letter from the cupboard and I had to report to serve."  

His sister Polly and her husband Ralph drove him to Fort Bragg and left him at boot camp in July, 1968.

David spoke highly of his platoon sergeant (pictured in center front)  ... The first and most important thing he remembers his sergeant saying was "You are going to Vietnam.  If you listen and do what I ask you to do, you will come back home."  His confidence rose after boot camp training and he left Fort Bragg for a short visit home before heading to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  From there he was sent straight to Dau Tieng, Vietnam ... arriving on Christmas Day in 1968. 

While at Dau Tieng Base Camp, local Vietnamese woman would come inside to clean and do laundry for the troops.  David is pictured here with a child of one of these women.  Most of the time children would come to the fence selling recycled things, pieces of rope, ashe trays made from brass shell casings, etc ...

David was an infantryman with the 25th Division.  His company's patch is nicknamed Tropic Lightning or Electric Strawberry.  During the Tet offensives of 1968 and 1969, Tropic Lightning soldiers were instrumental in defending the besieged city of Saigon.

David pictured now with a picture of then ...

After serving in Vietnam, David later joined the National Guard Army and was deployed to Iraq during the Desert Storm Conflict.   Following his time overseas, he was put in charge of the kitchen at the National Guard Armory of Ashe. The local guard's kitchen won "Best in State" under David's management.

David poses in front of a WWII Red Cross truck.

David customized the side of this vehicle while he was stationed in Iraq.   "Jesus IS my pilot ... he took care of me and I made it home."

Transporting fuel during Desert Storm

David is a proud member of the DAV (Disabled American Veterans)

and was honored to have served his country.

David Shoemaker (interviewed by Troy Brooks)

 

Forget everything you learned in training. It’s a different world out here.”

 

That was what David Shoemaker heard from a sergeant shortly before leaving for Vietnam in 1969. A native of Ashe County, David graduated from Beaver Creek High School in 1967 and his father would pass away in 1968. Three months later, David was drafted into the United States Army. 

 

David’s military career began with basic training at Fort Bragg. From there he went to Fort Polk in Louisiana for infantry training, a place commonly known as ‘tiger land’ due to the harsh tests that the troops endured. It was then that David was selected to go to non-commissioned officer training in Fort Benning and he realized that he had just been given a ticket to Vietnam. 

 

Due to the high loss rate of squad leaders during the war, David’s training was a fast track program and men who went through it were often called ‘shake and bakes.’ In just 12 weeks, David went from an E2 to an E5 Buck Sergeant, the highest rank he would hold during his military career. Following his officer training, David flew to Oakland, California where he stayed for two weeks waiting to be processed. In Oakland, troops in waiting were kept in huge warehouses filled with rows and rows of bunk beds. For 19-year-old Shoemaker, it was a shock for him and he heard many horror stories from troops returning from their duty. 

 

After about two to three weeks, David was put on a plane to Vietnam. At this time the Tet offensive, a major series of surprise attacks by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army had occurred. David was first sent to Pleiku, where he acquired his gear and rifle before getting on board a helicopter that would fly him over to his barracks in Ankei, located in the mountains of the country. Upon his arrival, David became a squad leader in the 4th infantry unit. 

.

Also known as the grunts and the ground pounders, David’s platoon would split off during day and night to perform perimeter and ambush patrols. One of David’s main jobs was searching out hidden supply camps for the North Vietnamese army. Many villages in the mountains secretly provided food and supplies for enemy troops and David’s team was tasked with burning down these camps and killing the animals, including water buffalo, pigs and chickens. 

 

David’s team would also pull guard for artillery batteries, making sure no one could get inside the perimeter area. One threat that they had to be especially wary of was sappers, Vietnamese troops who wore nothing but a tight cloth, like a sumo wrestler, carrying a satchel charge. Against all odds they would sneak through the wire and outer defenses and once in the perimeter they would lob the charges at whatever they could hit. 

 

In addition, friendly fire wasn’t always uncommon. Squads would be tasked with traveling out a certain number of clicks from camp. Once in position, the base would start dropping bombs and troops who missed their clicks were at risk of being hit with their own bombs.

 

David was involved in several conflicts during his service, earning him a combat infantry badge. However, the most brutal of these encounters was during a battle in a creek bed. Leading up to the conflict, David’s company was set up in stages on the border of Cambodia and U.S. troops were pushing the North Vietnamese army up towards the way of his platoon so they could engage. At one point, a platoon was out on patrol when they were pinned down at a creek bed. When they called for backup, David brought his squad to provide assistance, only to become pinned down as well. Several troops were lost in the fighting and around 30 in the whole company were wounded. 

 

“You can’t explain scared, can’t explain what it was like when you were there,” said David. “There was a medic who was hunkered down with his M16 in an enemy’s foxhole and he was just gone. He would jump up and fire off a whole clip then jump back down in that hole shaking like crazy. It was so thick you could see muzzle flashes coming at you. We had to call in support from a gunship equipped with a mini-gun. It came in spitting out 3,000 rounds per minute. Everything was dropping.” 

 

David earned a Purple Heart during his duty as well as a Bronze Star for attempting to help a wounded captain alongside three other men. 

 

“We were going up the inside of the stream bed carrying the captain in a litter made of ponchos. At one point the guy in the back got shot and someone else had to be pulled in. It was like something out of the movies; bullets bouncing off of the rocks ‘bing bing bing.’ At one point I thought I had got shot in the foot and I was shouting, ‘I’m hit, I’m hit!’ There was smoke coming out of the boot and the bullet had gone straight through, tearing off the bottom and leaving just a small bit of material. When an officer saw it he said ‘You need some new boots don’t yah,’ and had a new pair flown in for me that evening.” 

 

Even when the bullets weren’t flying life in the field was tough. Squads would be on patrol for weeks at a time. Water was an issue and often nasty to drink, requiring troops to purify it with pills. Leeches were a common annoyance as was tropical ulcer, more commonly known then as ‘jungle rot,’ a chronic ulcerative skin lesion caused by a polymicrobial infection, which could really turn bad due to the moisture. One case of jungle rot on his legs sent David back to camp until he was healed back up. When monsoon season hit, the rains would come down every day. David and his men would set up small tents made out of ponchos but they were not enough to keep them dry. 

 

In addition, troops never patrolled light. David would often have 90 pounds on his back, from food and gear to pickaxes and shovels, which would be used to build bunkers made out of dirt, sand and branches, or for clearing out landing zones for helicopters to provide supplies. 

Helicopters would drop in food and drink, but the supplies would often be dropped from too great a height, causing the canisters to burst open. The food consisted mainly of c-rations with everything coming in a can, including crackers, potted pork and meat and ham and eggs. The best thing by far was the cocoa, which the troops could use to make hot chocolate. But how did they cook the food? Troops on the field would carry an explosive called C-4, which was used to clear out land zones or against enemy forces. However, just a pinch of it set on the ground could be set alight to create heat for cooking. But you could not stomp out this fire, otherwise you would blow your leg off.

 

 

Once his patrols were done, David and his men would return to base, their single set of clothes so filthy it was like they were covered in grease.
“I remember one time they were bringing us back to the base camp at Ankei. The first place they took us to was the mess hall. We all went in and everyone else left because we smelled so bad. We had free reign over the place.”

Easy days were few and far between, usually when David was back in the barracks on stand down for one to two weeks. Treated to a fresh set of clothes, sleeping in the bunk beds and food at the mess hall, life was easier, but while it was a safe place, danger was never too far away. David would still have to pull guard from time to time with the constant thought that soon he would be sent back out in the field. 

David only spent one year in Vietnam, leaving in Sept. of 1970. When he first joined, David had considering making the military a career, but his experience during the war persuaded him to consider otherwise. Following his time in duty, he was placed in the reserves for about a year but was never called back out. For him, it was like getting a monkey off of his back. 

After returning home from service, David worked in several careers, including for a construction company, as a sales manager and working in a post office before his retirement. Despite the reprieve, life following his service was rough due to the stigma against the war. He was rejected from jobs and interviews. While on his way over to Vietnam, David saw several soldiers in Hawaii who had just finished their tours wearing civilian clothing instead of their uniforms. Thankfully, public opinion and respect for the troops that fought in the war has improved in the past few decades. 

 

In addition, even after 50 years, David still has to deal with the scars of his service and PTSD.

“Coming home, I still have flashbacks, still see stuff, dreaming about being back over there and having to go back. I don’t like being in crowds, don’t like sitting with my back to the door. Gunshots, firecrackers, fireworks, even the backfire from trucks still bothers me to this day. Hearing a chopper in the sky gets under my skin. It’s been many decades for me and some stuff just gets embedded in your brain. You leave West Jefferson that young and you come back a changed man.”

For David the VA and psychiatrist visits has been vital in helping him throughout his life, as well as his marriage. During his psychologist visits, his wide would often come with him to help understand what he was going through. 

“Most days are good. It’s all about keeping the balance. It’s like riding a roller coaster; you have lows and you have your anxiety highs. The one big thing that all the Vietnam veterans in combat say, you didn’t want to take orders from people, because the ones who told you what to do over there could get you killed. Authority was hard to deal with and is still a problem for me today.”

However, David has found one outlet in life that has proven to be his greatest therapy; his love for art and painting, an interest he’s had ever since he was a young boy in school when he took art lessons in West Jefferson. Today he paints a variety of styles including landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes. During the summer of 2019, he had an art exhibit on display at the Ashe County History Museum which took him three years to complete. The exhibit consists of several paintings, each one accompanied by a poem. 

“It gives me something to focus on and allows me to open up. I’ve always liked creating things, seeing a small idea grow and evolve to its completion. I feel sorry for a lot of guys today who don’t have anything to do.”

Much has changed since the war and Vietnam and the removal of the draft. David’s life was sent on a short but life changing path that left a significant mark on his life that would define the man he became today. In his opinion it was an honor to serve, but for him and many other soldiers, their greatest thought during war wasn’t just on fighting for a cause, but for getting home safe and sound. 

'"My Lai" Survivor'

'"My Lai" Survivor,' a piece of art by David Shoemaker. 

Stephen Sharpe Shoemaker (interviewed by Aurora and Vickie Randolph)

Stephen Shoemaker was born on January 3, 1946 at Ashe Memorial Hospital.  He was drafted into the Army and assigned the job of MP (military police).  He served during the Vietnam Era during the years 1967 - 1969. He was an expert at rifle shooting and received a Good Conduct Medal and a National Defense Medal.  His duties included patrolling Fort Bragg, Downtown Fayetteville, and Washington D.C. He helped with riot control in D.C. after the assignation of Martin Luther King Jr and also on duty for Richard Nixon's inauguration.   Stephen's rank at discharge was Specialist 4th Class.

Did you make any close friends?

I had many close friends from our barracks. Bill “The Duck” Tucker is the only one I really continued a friendship with—we served during our basic training tenure together. He went to Vietnam, and I stayed in the States. He came back and joined the 503rd MP at Fort Bragg NC
 

Do you recall any particularly humorous events?

Bill came walking back from the barracks toward the mess hall.  The rest of us were in formation. I saw him coming, and I told all the guys, “When Bill gets to the door, everybody quack like a duck” He couldn’t stand it.

Sometimes, for birthdays, we’d have a cake (which was just a box) with a candle in it.  Funny times. Once we stole a deuce & a half to go into town (two & half ton truck). We rode into DC and picked up brewskis and headed back to the base… “commandeered” not stole!

What are some pranks that you or the others would pull?

We never beat each other up…we threatened to send some to the car wash, but we didn’t.  There was the old “fire extinguisher trick,” and that was funny.  

One of the guys named Lupe…thank goodness I wasn’t sleeping next to him; he’d blow his nose in his dirty socks. He’d take them off or take them out of his laundry bag and blow his nose in them.

 

Did you attend any reunions?

No, not really.  I’ve been back to Fort Bragg a couple of times. The barracks are still there.

What are some of your most memorable experiences?
 
Building a huge two-story, paper mache Santa Claus to stand out in front of our barracks at Christmas. We were trying to win a “Best Christmas Decoration” award for Ft Bragg. (photos)

My most memorable thing was flying. My first airplane ride was from Ft. Gordon, Ga to Ft. Bragg…we loaded up our whole army to fly to Washington for the riots after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  We loaded up the kitchen, armory, supplies—everything. We flew up to Washington to support the Washington Police. We landed at Andrews Air Force Base and
bivouacked (camped) at Potomac Park.  We put up and lived in those tents for a while, through Easter.  I had KP duty, and I traded so I could have the day off to see the cherry blossoms; I wrote letters all day long. The wind came up and blew those cherry blossoms! That’s probably my most memorable moment, those cherry blossoms falling out of those trees!

What was the food like? 

Just food. Whatever, nothing memorable about it.  Just basics.  SOS: Hamburger or chipped beef in a rue/gravy over toast.  I liked it!  I think it was one of the best things we had.  

The steaks were so rough you could make shoes out of them. Sometimes you’d go to the mess hall, and they’d be saying, “don’t eat the mashed potatoes!”  Just for the hell of it, some guy would have put his boots in it.

If the cook left, those boys in the back would just throw those pots in the dumpster. They never got caught. You had to get dining room orderly, or side sink duty wash plates, cups, silverware, pots & pans man—washes big pots, outdoor man he cleans the grease trap outside, and the containers of trash were straight.

How did you guys entertain yourselves?

One time we all did Halloween costumes. I had a guy on my shoulders like a giant.  We’d have birthday parties with box cakes with candles in them. We’d go down to the PX and get a bag of Cheetos and a quart of beer. We’d go to the movies—Ft. Bragg had a main post theater, pool, tennis courts, outdoor concerts…I remember seeing James Brown.

What movies did you see?

Guns of Navarro with William Blake. Just a bunch of movies during the 60s. Before the movie, you’d have to salute for the National Anthem.

We pulled post patrol, downtown patrol, stockade patrol…once, I was on stockade patrol and two guys came up to me and asked if those guys in the tower would shoot us if we try to cross the line.  I heard squawking and shooting.  I came running around the block, and they were all tangled in the barb wire…it was just warning shots, but them boys found out real quick you don’t cross the wire.

What was it like when you first got arrived? 

We left on a bus and rode from Boone to Charlotte.  They put us on the “group W” bench.  Just the way it is in the song… infected, neglected, detected, selected… Once we got the stamp of approval, we were put on another bus and ended up at Ft Bragg LATE at night, almost morning. They started rambling and hollering, yelling at us to get rid of everything. Then they hustled us off the mess hall (for powdered eggs), showed us how to make a bed, screaming at us about this that and the other…screaming at us. They break you down.  Then we went to the reception station to get uniforms, boots and haircuts.  We’re standing there in formation, and the Salvation Army came by and had a box for us—with a bible, toothbrush, soap, etc. Then we had to throw it all in the dumpster.  

I had/have the highest respect for the Salvation Army.  When my Granddaddy was in the trenches during WWI, the Salvation Army was right there.

Do you recall your instructors? 

They were called Drill Sergeants and they were the ones that marched you around from place to place—they taught you how to put camo on, target detection, instruction in first aid, how to take care of sucking chest wounds… We went through many things…gas chambers, how to throw hand grenades…. “If you haven’t been gassed in the army, you haven’t been gassed.”
They made us throw live grenades. We had gas grenades we could throw in Washington during the riots. I came close, but they stopped just in time.     

There was eight or nine weeks of basic training. Then, they send you off to AIT: Advanced Individual Training. Then, I got sent to Ft. Gordon, Ga, and it started all over again.  I don’t know how they pick who does what, but you just did what they told you.

(we talked about the Vietnam Wall in DC…WWI and WWII…The horror of all of those wars…)

“We could never understand unless you’ve been there.”

What did you go on to do as a career after your service?

I came back to Ashe County and worked at Southern Devices (Leviton), then after about a year of that, I applied at Appalachian State University. I’m a Happy Appy! I graduated in 1972, majoring in Art with a minor in Philosophy and Religion.

What did you do in the days and weeks after you got back

I bought a hotrod ‘68 Plymouth Satellite and rolled out of Ft. Bragg with Motown on the radio all the way.  I didn’t come back home; I went straight to my friend’s in Henderson, NC.; we were good friends. 
 
When I was in the military, I was really anti-military and anti-everything.  We had to do what we were told, or else we went to jail!  I had a brother in Vietnam. A lot of guys got treated real bad.  My brother never really talked about it.  He still suffers a lot…he got the shakes, he got himself a bunch of tattoos…  My brother was wounded twice (it’s amazing he’s alive).  He said he got to the point he wouldn’t want to make friends with anyone, because they’d be dead as soon as you got to know them.   His whole platoon was killed.

Did you join a Veteran’s organization?

I joined the American Legion in Charlotte—that post went back to the WWI. 

I moved to Charlotte after AppState.  In Charlotte, I worked for a retail company as a visual merchandise manager—provided signage, decorating for holidays, go to NY buy stuff to decorate, etc. Married in Charlotte, had little Margie, hooked up with an art broker in Winston Salem.
 

Was your education supported by the GI Bill? 
 

Yes, it was a big, big help. I appreciate it.
 

I came back here in about 1992.   I came back single, living out of a shoe; I lived in Todd for about a year & a half.  I was dog sitting and doing art.  I had an epiphany when I found a newspaper in my granddaddy’s old desk—it had a picture of the Virginia Creeper, and I thought, “you know, I should paint that!”  I lucked onto this train thing…the gravy boat.   

Two grandchildren Jax & Evelyn. Married to Nancy. 

Elijah Smith

On May 17, 1861, at age 19, Elijah F. Smith enlisted as a private in in Company A of the 26th NC Infantry Regiment in Ashe County. This group was known as the Jeff Davis Mountaineers. He was promoted to Corporal on April 17, 1862. Wounded in action at Gettysburg July 1, 1863. Promoted to 1st Sergeant on March 30, 1864, and eventually taken prisoner near Petersburg, Virginia, on October 10, 1864. He was detained at Point Lookout, Maryland, until transferred to James River for a prisoner exchange February 21, 1865. Wounded at Gettysburg, family traditon says Elijah known as “Leige” carried the bullet till he died.

Elijah Franklin Smith (1842-1926), son of William Byrd Smith and Mary Eveline Baker & Lovey Jane Davis Smith (1849-1929), daughter of John Wilson Davis and Mary “Polly” Weiss. They were married April 30, 1864 and they lived at Grassy Creek. Both are buried at the William Byrd Smith Cemetery at Grassy Creek.

Civil War Monuments

Fayetteville, NC - Cross Creek Cemetery, 1868

Cleveland County, NC - Lest We Forget

Rutherford County, NC - Confederate Monument 1910

New Jersey State Civil War Monument

New Bern NC National Cemetery - 1905 

Ashe County, NC Courthouse-grounds Monument

Civil War Plaque 2003

Origins of Veteran Commemoration 

Dr. Douglas Butler is a practicing physician and author of North Carolina Civil War Monuments: An Illustrated History (McFarland 2013).  Additional information and photos can be found at www.northcarolinacivilwarmonuments.com.