Gadsden-Etowah County honors veterans


 By Donna Thornton/News Editor

“One hero after another,” is the way Rick Vaughan, chairman of the Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association described those recognized at the 38th Annual Patriots Day program Nov. 7 at Convention Hall in Gadsden.

The program inducted four members to the Patriot’s Hall of Honor as usual. Those inductees were Bobby G. Russell, Bobby M. Junkins, John G. (Jack) Page and Robert Dewey Stansell. For the first time, the association inducted 10 additional members. All are part of the “Greatest Generation” – Etowah County veterans of World War II.

The reason for the special induction was a matter of timing. Many of the veterans of WWII already have passed away, and the association wants to recognize more of them while they can be present to receive their honors. Three of those inducted were honored posthumously, illustrating the reason for the special inductions.

For the first time, the Patriot’s Association presented the Col. Ola Lee Mize Award, named for Gadsden’s Congressional Medal of Honor winner. The award went to Gen. Joseph Stringham.

The keynote speaker for the event was to have been Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, introduced by Col. Roosevelt Joseph Lewis Jr. However, Lewis explained that Carter was ill and had been hospitalized in Opelika. While he said he would have liked to have stayed in Gadsden for the Veteran’s Day Parade, he left immediately after the program to be with Carter.

Lewis proved to be an inspiring substitute. As a “second-generation” Tuskegee Airman, Lewis trained with Chief Alfred Anderson, who taught the Airmen to fly during World War II. While Lewis was a student at Tuskegee University, he said Anderson took him and some friends flying.

“Oh, did he put the hook in,” Lewis said, and after 6,600 hours of flying time in 54 different aircraft, he said, his love of flying remains.

Lewis praised the Gadsden community for the events it hosted Nov. 6.

“Honoring patriotism this way says so much about who you are, who you’ve been and who you will continue to be,” Lewis said.

“These young people,” he said, referring to young military personnel and ROTC members attending the program, “in their time, in their place, their generation will be the treasures of this nation. They need to know these who’ve gone before.You are indeed teaching young people. You are providing the great example of not just who we are, but what we can be.

Posthumous awards:

William Leon Benson – Benson was inducted into the Navy in 1943 and was discharged in 1946 as a SC2/C. While serving on the L.S.T. #511, he saw action in a practice invasion for Omaha Beach where German torpedo boats attacked the L.S.T.s Five weeks later he participated in D-Day. He also served at Drammen, Norway, with occupation troops who took charge of defeated German forces.

James M. (Jack) Sims – Sims enlisted in the Army in 1940, becoming a member of Headquarters Troop, 28th Ordnance Co., 6th Cavalry. He was involved in the Utah Beach Amphibious Landing in 1944. After fighting in many campaigns, the 6th Cavalry Group joined with the III Corps. In the Battle of the Bulge. He was under Gen. Patton’s command and was wounded in action, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Service Star. He was discharged as a sergeant in 1945. He was instrumental in forming the Dixie Little League in the 1950s.

F.M. Addison – Addision was drafted in the Army and inducted into Company G, 1st Infantry Division in March 1944. In September 1944, his destination was the European Theater. He fought in such battles as the Ardennes, the Rhineland and in Central Europe. Being wounded in Belgium in 1945, he was awarded the Purple Heart. Other awards and citations consist of a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars. He was discharged in 1945 as a T/sergeant. He became a good neighbor by helping others work on their houses, and by giving money to those more in need than he.

Present inductees:

Bobby G. Russell – Russell is a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, serving in the Military Intelligence Corps, interrogating POWs. He received two Bronze Stars for valor. He was discharged in 1975. Bobby’s career also included being an assistant football coach and teacher at Emma Sansom High School as well as short stints in other schools. He served as principal at Gadsden High School later becoming Superintendent of Education for the Gadsden City Schools. Some of his civic activities include the United Way, Gadsden City Team for Safer Neighborhoods, Junior Achievement Board and Etowah County Quality of Life Council.

Bobby M. Jenkins – Bobby has been Judge of Probate in Etowah County since 1989. Before that time, he was director of the Gadsden Public Library, and he served two terms in the Alabama Legislature. He has helped raise funds for the expansions on the Chamber of Commerce building, the War Memorial and libraries throughout Etowah County. He is affiliated with many civic organizations such as: Gadsden Kiwanis Club, Head Start, Masonic Lodge 23, Zamora Shrine Club, Quarterback Club and the Voters League. He has received numerous honors in his behalf. Some of these are: C.I.T.Y. Program Citizen of the Year, Gadsden State Community College Alumnus of the Year; Central-Carver Icon, Governor’s Award for the Arts, and naming of the Bobby M. Junkins Alabama Room at the Gadsden Public Library.

John G. (Jack) Page III – Page serves as a Marine in Vietnam with VMA-13, earning several medals. In 1973, he was discharged with the rank of sergeant. He has worked as a classroom teacher, a firefighter, and a small business owner. He served as a state representative for District 29, and works at Gadsden State Community College. Among many of the honors and awards he has won are: The VVA “Citizen of the Year” award in 2008, the state VVA “Veteran of the Year” award in 2009, Coates Bend Volunteer Fire Department “Citizen of the Year,” and FEMA “Certificate of Appreciation.” He is a life member of the Alabama Gun Collectors Association, the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Rifle Association. He is a member of the Crossville Civitan Club, Alabama City Lions Club, Gadsden Shrine Club, Gadsden Lodge 236 F&AM, Zamora Temple of the Shrine, AARP, and AEA/NEA.

Robert Dewey Stansell – Stansell entered the Army in 1952, serving in Korea as a Medical Aid man with the 25th Infantry Division, 27th Infantry Regiment of detached service from the 25th Medical Battalion. He serves as First Sergeant of the Battalion Aid Station with the 90th Field Artillery Battalion. He received a citation for performing his job without regard to his own personal safety. In his service to others, he has provided musical programs for countless civic organizations locally and around the country. In 2009, he was inducted into the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame. He is employed with the Exchange Bank after being in the hardware business for 35 years.

Arnold D. Vinyard – Arnold joined the National Guard’s 31st Dixie Division in 1939. In 1940, the Guard mobilized into the regular Army. He was assigned to the 601st Military Police Battalion and was deployed to North Africa. His duty was to guard German prisoners. After returning home, he was again deployed to England and was assigned in Germany where he helped train soldiers. He was aboard ship in the Philippines while waiting for the peace treaty to be signed. He returned to the states via Japan and was discharged in 1945 with the rank of S/sergeant. He won several medals while in service. He also has been active in civic work, helping with the Boy Scout cabin at Noccalula Falls, and being honored by the DAR.

C.B. (Red) Collier, Jr. – Collier joined the Marine Corps and served with the 1st Marine Division during World War II. On his way to basic training, the train he was riding had a wreck and he had to finish the journey in a cattle truck. Collier was deployed to Guadalcanal and after that he went to Peleliu. After leaving Peleliu, Collier went to Okinawa. He was in Okinawa when a plane landed, a plane that had just dropped the atomic bomb on Japanese soil. Collier became an engineer after the war and became Gadsden’s first city planner and engineer. He also served as the first director of the Water Works and Sewer. Collier belongs to many civic organizations.

Harold Thomas Bailey – Bailey joined the Navy in 1942. He was assigned to the Aviation Utility Squadron 2 in San Diego. The squadron was assigned to support the Seventh Fleet. From Honolulu he went to the New Hebrides Islands. As the war progressed the squadron made stops at Guadalcanal and Pityilu. He moved on to Hollandia, New Guinea, the island of Biak, and finally on Leytae in the Philippines. He has been a leader in the Duck Springs Community Club, served as a volunteer fireman and helped establish the Duck Springs Wildlife Refuge.

Charles E. (Chuck) Davis – Davis volunteered for the Army in 1941. He went through Airborne Infantry and Jump School. He was assigned to the 75th Division, and shipped to France. He fought with the 287 Airborne Infantry as back up to the 101st Division. He fought at the battle at Heckslave, France, and was recommended for a Silver Star. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded. After the war he was decorated with the Combat Infantry Badge and four Battle Stars. He was recalled to the Korean War in 1950, serving as Company Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and earning two Battle Stars. He was discharged as a major. His civic work includes the March of Dimes, Salvation Army, United Way, Kiwanis Club, Quarterback Club, Rotary Club, Senior PGA Golf volunteer, and Gadsden Country Club.

Lacy U. Weston Jr. – Weston enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was discharged in 1945. He served in Europe, North Africa and Italy as an aircraft electrical specialist. Her served in the following battles and campaigns: Air Off Europe, Allie Moroccan and Anti-Sub. He received the EAME Ribbon and Good Conduct Medal. He has given many years of service to the people of Gadsden through his dedication to aviation. He is a Son of the American Revolution and a Boy Scout master.

James M. Christopher Jr. – Christopher enlisted in the Army in 1943. He was deployed to Italy as a replacement, joining Company G, 2nd Battalion, 30th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division, known as the “Rock of the Marne.” His battles consisted of Rome, Italy, Anzio, Italy and Southern France. In the invasion of Southern France, James was wounded. He was discharged in 1945. He received the EAME Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. Using his building skills, Christopher helped bring a new church into being. He still is active in the Kairos (prison) Ministry and the Cursillo Ministry. He also volunteers at the Animal Shelter.

Thomas Harold Smith – Harold entered the Navy in 1944. After attending Gunnery School he was assigned to the USS New York. He headed to Iwo Jima where his ship was the first to fire at a kamikaze plane. His crew bombarded the island for three days to soften up the island for the Marine landing. They then went to Okinawa and bombarded that island. They ship was hit by a kamikaze pilot and it returned to Pearl Harbor to be refitted. Smith was discharged in 1946. Some of his civic affiliations include membership in the VFW Post 10408 and the Masons. He delivers Meals on Wheels, was a trustee at Glencoe High School, and was a member of the Board of Directors at Glencoe Senior Citizens Center. He is president of the Alabama Gas Company Retirees, Gadsden, Ala. District.

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