By Sarrah Peters
The Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association’s Hall of Honor luncheon was held on Wednesday, November 4 at Convention Hall. The association honored 11 veterans for their sacrifice and dedication to the community. The event was catered by the Bridal Garden.
Before the honorees were inducted into the Hall of Honor, the Gadsden City High School Jr. ROTC posted the colors, Breanna Putnam led the Pledge of Allegiance and Kate Falcon sang the national anthem. Billy Harris led the Invocation and City of Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton and Etowah County Commission Chairman Larry Payne welcomed everyone. The Gadsden State Show Choir performed some patriotic songs.
The first Hall of Honor inductee was the late Fred L. Moon. Fred served in the U.S. Army from December 28, 1942 to December 12, 1945 as a radio operator and performed duties with a Tank Destroyer Battalion of the 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 9th Armies in the Continental United States, England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Austria. His decorations and citations are WWII Victory Medal, American Service, Good Conduct Medal and European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with three Bronze Stars. After he returned, Moon helped establish Little League Baseball in Etowah County. He led the Lion’s Club team to 18 city championships. Moon coached the National League All-Stars to a third place finish in the Little League World Series in 1958 and to a fifth place finish in the Little League World Series in 1959.
The next Hall of Honor inductee was Robert D. Gibson. Gibson entered the service at Ft. McPherson, Ga., on March 1, 1944. On Nov. 29, 1944, he was assigned to 836th Bomb Squadron 487th Bomber Group as a B-17 waist gunner in the 8th Air Force. He was on a total of 24 combat missions over Germany, where he was wounded twice. He was sent to AAF Convalescent Hospital for eight months and was honorably discharged on November 15, 1945. Robert received two Purple Hearts, a Good Conduct Medal, a Victory Medal and an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious achievement. Gibson enrolled at the University of Alabama, majoring in business, before working for Goodyear and then a rubber plant in Tennessee. Gibson is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, trustee member of Coosa Valley Baptist Church since 1976, Mission Trip Finance Chairman, Gadsden Bowling Association, Goodyear Softball Team Coach, Goodyear Top Ten Club and the 487th Bomb Group Association.
Julius S. Rubel served as a Naval officer during WWII. Prior to leaving to serve his country in 1944, he trained from 1942-1943 in underwater mine disarmament in Virginia and Maryland. Two nights before D-Day, he and three others were sent in a rubber raft to check out the beach and report back. A letter from the Secretary of the Navy to Rubel along with other letters of commendation recognized Rubel’s outstanding service during the war. Upon returning home, Rubel joined the family business of Ike Saks Clothing store and became the head after his father-in-law, Ike Saks, passed away. The store won the National Small Business of the Year award. Rubel was a member of the Downtown Action Council and Gadsden Rotary Club, where he was active in all capacities. Julius supported the Temple Beth Israel, serving as President of the Temple. He was a major supporter of Childhood Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Research. After moving to Sarasota, Fla., in 1979, Julius became a major supporter of the Jewish Community Center. He served as a volunteer mediator in the Sarasota Court System and assisted with heart patients at Sarasota Memorial Hospital to help them adjust after surgery.
The late Henry P. Graham was inducted next. Henry served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater from 1941-1946 where he achieved the highest enlisted rank of Sergeant Major of South Pacific Base Command and was recommended for OCS. In 1977, Graham retired as Attalla’s assistant postmaster after serving 36 years with the U.S. Postal Service. He started Graham Vending Sales in 1955 and later with his wife, Antiques Spoken Here. Graham faithfully served as Chairman of Deacons, Sunday school and Training Union Director and teacher, and Centennial Committee Chairman. He was a Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringer and a life member of PTA, Kiwanis and American Legion. As Etowah’s PTA President and active booster, Graham ran the stadium’s concession stand with his classmate and childhood friend, Charles Rowan. A member of the Etowah County High School Class of 1939, he helped establish the College Scholarship Program and served on its annual selection committee, which is still being awarded to a graduating senior.
The late Jack L. Ray was inducted. Ray attended the Tennessee Military Institute his junior and senior years of high school, before working his way through Duke University to receive his degree in Business Administration. His first job after college was with Dowd Press in Charlotte, N.C., as a printing salesman. In 1959, Ray and James B. Allen purchased controlling stock of The First State Bank of Altoona, taking it from a country bank to a major contender. In 1960, Ray and Allen bought the Merchants and Farmers Bank in Attalla and later changed the name to Exchange Bank of Attalla. In January 1991, the two banks merged and the name was changed to The Exchange Bank of Alabama. Today the bank proudly serves as Etowah County’s only home owned bank with its six locations; Altoona, Attalla, Gadsden, Hokes Bluff, Noccalula and Rainbow City. Ray also organized and was first president of the Gadsden Homebuilders Association. In 1980, he was one of the original organizers of the Etowah Expansion Committee and raised money to build the Cultural Arts Center and its foundation in 1984. He was a supporter of the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra. He was an active member of the Lions Club, Gadsden area Chamber of Commerce, participated in the Salvation Army Capital Funds Drive and supporter of Gadsden State Community College. Some other community projects include Downtown Gadsden Inc., Industrial Development Authority, and was a long supporter of the United Way. In recognition of his community service, Ray was honored to be inducted into the 1993 Pillars of Gold by the Gadsden area Chamber of Commerce.
The late Gary J. Bone was inducted next. Bone attended Gadsden State Community College, before attending and graduating from Jacksonville State University. During his time at JSU, Bone worked as a structural iron worker, which he continued after graduation. He served as Steelworkers Union President. He became a lawyer on April 24, 1984. In 1991, he went into full time practice of law. Gary has over the years represented many veterans, without fee or expenses, on various matters concerning disability. Gary has contributed to the Veterans Monument at Noccalula Falls and the monument at Moragne Park. Bone even traveled to New York to assist in cleaning up debris after the September 11 attacks. He was a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church and taught adult Sunday school Class for 14 years. Bone served on the Board of Directors for United Way, Red Cross Board and the Salvation Army. He was a supporter of youth organizations, including the Southside High School baseball team.
The late Gary W. Reeves was inducted. He worked at Alabama Power, but volunteered in the community throughout the years and coaching youth sports. When his parents went into a nursing home, he volunteered to do repairs and assist with programs.For 20 years, Reeves volunteered a lot of time and effort at New Bethel Cemetery, as Chairman of the Board. He also spent many hours as Chairman of the Trustee Board and the Church Leader at New Bethel FCM Church, having it declared a Safe Place through the EMA. Reeves was an active member on the Executive Committee of the Gadsden/Etowah Emergency Management Agency, the Gadsden Etowah Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Smeltzer Center Board and the Etowah County Citizens Advisory Committee. He served on the Hokes Bluff Planning Commission for 14 years. After retirement, he was asked to fill an unexpired term as city councilman of Hokes Bluff. He ran for councilman in 2004 unopposed then ran for mayor and won in 2008 and served two terms. He started the Avenue of Flags, located down Alford Bend Road, with his own money. In 2013, he was given the Hometown Hero Award from Hokes Bluff Middle School. And after he passed he received a Community Hometown Hero award from Modern Woodman of America in 2015.
The late Troy Reeves, Jr. was inducted. Reeves served in the U.S. Army for 33 years. He served on President Kennedy’s Presidential Flight Team as helicopter pilot for vice president Hubert Humphrey. He served two tours in Vietnam. He received many awards and medals for his service. As a senior aviation instructor, some of his training manuals are still being used at Fort Rucker. After his retirement from the military, Reeves became involved in the Hokes Bluff community. He was a member of Liberty United Methodist Church, Sunday School teacher, choir member for 20 years, leader in organizing the annual Veterans Appreciation Program for 15 years and called the elderly for the Family Success Center. He volunteered to do puppet shows for school children in Etowah County for Child Abuse Awareness and participated in Blue Ribbon Campaign. He was also an active member of Hokes Bluff Lions Club and Hokes Bluff Seniors and Friends.
Judge William Allen Millican was inducted. Allen joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1969. In August of 1970, he became a hospital corpsman, went on active duty in Charleston, S.C. in November of 1970 and served in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from November of 1970 until December of 1971. He was honorably discharged in 1975. He worked three years as a laborer in carpentry, masonry, and general construction and then 10 years with the United States Postal Service. Allen is a graduate of Gadsden State Junior College, the University of Alabama and attended the Birmingham School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Then he received the opportunity of a lifetime and began practicing law with Rowan Bone and Eddie Cunningham, where he remained until he was elected and took office as a Circuit Judge in Etowah County in January 2001. He was instrumental in establishing a community corrections program for the city, including domestic violence counseling, anger management counseling, substance abuse, random drug screening, electric monitoring and a work release program for city prisoners. He is a member of Dwight Baptist Church and Dwight Masonic Lodge 550. He was a board member of Boys and Girls Club and the Gadsden Beautification Board.
Judge Jamie Sledge was inducted. Jamie’s military career began when he joined the ROTC program at Auburn University. He volunteered for the army in 1967 and went on active duty in May of 1969. He served in Vietnam as advisor to Vietnamese Special Operations Forces from 1970-1971, under the command of CIA in the Phoenix Program. After his service, he returned to Ft. Rucker where he was honorably discharged in 1971. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Honor Medal, 1st Class by Republic of Vietnam. Jamie was United States Bankruptcy Judge of the Northern District of Alabama from 1991-2005 and Chief Judge United States Copyright Royalty Judges, Washington, D.C. from 2006 -2013. He supported the Center for Cultural Arts, Gadsden Museum of Art, Alabama Symphony in Birmingham, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Etowah Food Bank, Kiwanis Club, Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association and many more.
John S. Graham was the last inductee to the Patriots Hall of Honor. Graham served in the U.S. Air Force from November 1968 to March 1989. He retired at the rank of Master Sergeant. His awards include Meritorious Service Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with Silver Oak Leaf, National Defense Service Medal, U.S. Vietnam Service Medal with two battle stars, Humanitarian Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Air Force Overseas Service Short Tour, AF Overseas Service Long Tour with one Oak Leaf, AF Longevity Service with four Oak Leafs, AF NCO Professional Military Education Graduate with two oak leafs, AF Small arms Expert with one star, AF Training Ribbon, RVN Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, Airman of the Quarter, Combat Crew Member Badge, NCO of the Quarter, AF Advisor of the Quarter, Master Communications Badge and the USAF Retirement Pin. He worked for Allstate Insurance from 1989 to 2012, when he retired. He volunteered as Crisis Counselor for GED Mental Health and was a past president and one of the founders of The Shelter, a domestic violence shelter for three counties. He was an original board member of Habitat for Humanity of Etowah County, GED teacher for Etowah County, Etowah County Youth Soccer coach and referee. He is a supporter of the Knights of Columbus in Gadsden and the Gadsden Museum of Art. He worked with the Air Force Sergeants Association, VFW, Air Force Memorial Association and Air Force Association. He has been active in many more community programs.
After the program, a Veteran’s Day parade was held in downtown Gadsden on Broad Street. Etowah citizens crowded the streets to watch school bands, veteran’s groups and local businesses support the veterans.