Photo: Master Sergeant (Ret) Max Mullen, Jr. addresses attendees of the 47th Annual Patriots Day Program sponsored by Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association on November 9 at the Venue at Coosa Landing. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
The Gadsden-Etowah Patriots Association held its 47th annual Patriots Day Program on November 9 at The Venue at Coosa Landing.
The association inducted six new honorees into its Hall of Honor: Clarence William Daugette, III; Sergeant First Class (Ret) Frank Clark Godfrey, Jr.; Master Gunnery Sergeant (Ret) Howard Lee Ranier ; Major (Ret) Robert C. Rollins; Master Sergeant (Ret) Joyce Lancaster Shelley and Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Danny M. Thornton.
The ceremony’s guest speaker was Master Sergeant (Ret) Howard “Mad Max” Mullen, Jr.
Mullen was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 2013 for his infantry service, among other roles. Mullen conducted a parachute assault known as “Operation Urgent Fury” in 1983 and was later recognized for his excellence as a Ranger Instructor. Mullen traveled overseas to Afghanistan on a showcase Ranger Tour.
“Veterans, you all have a story to tell,” Mullen said.
Veterans — and the families and communities that support them — Mullen argued, are “the bedrock of our country.”
Not only should veterans of the United States Armed Forces be recognized and appreciated, he said, but their experience and wisdom should be used to teach the next generation.
“The Bible says, ‘Train up a child in the way they should go, and they will not depart from it,’” Mullen said.
Mullen himself grew up on military bases all over the world where his father was posted. He read everything he could get his hands on about the Vietnam conflict and the soldiers fighting in it at the time.
“I was born to be a soldier, to serve my country,” Mullen said.
Mullen argued that children today should be taught more United States history.
“Don’t forget your history,” he said. “[But] you cannot let the past be a ball and chain to hold you back.”
He praised the City of Gadsden and its surrounding municipalities for their preservation of history. Mullen said he was touched when driving through Glencoe upon seeing its streets lined with American flags and veteran memorials.
“Legacy is huge, and this community has legacy,” Mullen said of Gadsden and Etowah County.
The six inductees, all local, were honored for their own legacies during and after their military service.
Daugette, who served 18 years in the United States Army Reserve, carries on his father’s legacy as well as his own. He has long been active in civilian life as a member of the Gadsden-Etowah Chamber of Commerce and numerous other organizations. Daugette was instrumental in naming Jacksonville State University’s Rowe Hall in honor of his father, who was a World War II veteran.
Godfrey served over 20 years active duty in the Army as an infantryman, including tours in both Korea and Vietnam. He is a decorated with the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the United Nations Service Medal and several Korea and Vietnam service medals.
Ranier served in the United States Marine Corps from 1953 to 1978, including a tour in Korea and three tours in Vietnam. He, like Daugette, is still associated with the Boy Scouts of America, Ranier having earned Bronze, Gold and Silver Palms. Ranier and Godfrey are both active members of the VFW.
Rollins served in the United States Army Infantry from 1973 to 1993 and served in Special Operations units for 14 years of his service. He holds honors like the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Master Parachutist’s Wings. Rollins currently serves as president of the Coosa Valley chapter of Military Officers Association of America.
Shelley served in the Alabama Air National Guard from 1975 until she transferred to be an Alabama State Trooper in 1979. She worked as a Narcotics Investigator, Post Commander, Incident Commander of Special Operations details and more. She served 26 years total before her retirement in 2005.
Thornton served in the United States Marine Corps starting in 1970 and later served in the Alabama Army National Guard and United States Air Force, spanning three military branches over his career. Thornton holds the National Defense Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal. He served as Senior Vice Commander of local VFW Post 8600.