Farewell to a hero: Col. Ola Lee Mize, 1931-2014

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By Donna Thornton/News Editor

Family, friends and many who may not have known Col. Ola Lee Mize personally, but knew of the heroism that earned him the Medal of Honor, said goodbye to the Etowah County veteran on March 15.

Service was at Southside Baptist Church, with burial in Crestwood Cemetery, complete with an honor guard and helicopters flying over the cemetery in “missing man” formation.

And between the church service and the graveside, there were roadways lined with people paying their respects to Mize, who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Some people brought flags, and one man brought a tie with an American flag design to wave. Lorie Walker of Rainbow City brought a scarf with an American flag design she bought specifically to wave as the hearse passed by. She stood with several people outside Rainbow City First United Methodist Church along U.S. 411, some of whom had been waiting for an hour. 

Her daughter Saylor, 9, had insisted that they had to come. 

“It’s such an honor,” Lorie said. 

As people stood waiting, they could see the helicopters hovering near Gadsden Airport, preparing for the “missing man” formation that ended Mize’s graveside service at Crestwood Cemetery. 

Billy Morris of Gadsden waited 30 minutes at Gadsden City Hall for the funeral procession to pass by, bringing an American flag with him. 

“We just wanted to come and show our support,” Morris said.

“He’s a local hero, really. There are not that many guys that get the Medal of Honor.” 

Ray Hutchison, of Rainbow City, said he lived near Mize and had heard about him all his life.

Howard Schwartz of Rainbow City was also a Korean War veteran and remembered Mize’s parade through downtown Gadsden after he was decorated. 

“I wouldn’t miss this,” he said.

“I grew up two miles from this guy, and I was in the Army.”

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