Fall brings the opportunity to honor veterans who served, and their extended families, showing the interest and devotion Patrick County citizens have for their military members.
Accordingly I would like to reference several events and people, beginning with the memorial tribute from several years ago, for the young men who forever rest on Bull Mountain, the results of a training exercise gone wrong due to an incorrect map for a transport plane carrier.
The late Clarence Hall, posed the idea to then County Administrator Dave Hoback regarding a memorial, and a later presentation to the Board of Supervisors was successful. Phillip Plaster, then a member of the Board of Supervisors, along with numbers too lengthy to name, assisted in locating citizens in other states whose relatives were on that plane.
Many relatives attended and many Patrick residents supported and shared in the tribute, hiking with Plaster to the top of the mountain; First Baptist Church members offered meals and many visitors lodged at The Virginian Motel. Students from the local high school shared in the tribute, and the local military honor guard members were present.
I also attended, and remember one person in full Naval dress, standing at attention in the middle of the road in front of the court house. I kept the shell from the 21-gun salute for years, and remember a sister of a young man who perished thanking participants. She was full of emotion, and noted that he will forever be 19 years old. Patrick County does not forget.
Of the citizens who were in World War II service, Eldon Shough, and Douglas Raper joined the Navy under the Buddy plan. Eldon was an armed guard on a ship. He also slept under the klaxon, a horn that called to battle stations. Some may not have known, but Eldon always knew when the ship was ready for battle. He returned to a quiet life of hunting fairy stones, and Native American relics with his wife Colleen and daughters Susan and Rita.
Douglas went ashore on Omaha Beach on “D -DAY.” His only recited memory was the memory of trying to move dead bodies in order to go ashore. Douglas served in the Pacific, but never had to go ashore in the “first wave.”
Douglas returned to his family and became a newspaper printer. He returned to a quiet life in Patrick County, sharing memories with family members that included his wife Irene, and son, Michael.
The Fulcher men were always “close-mouthed,” but three served;
Kyle Fulcher served stateside to attend to military needs; he returned to rear two children. A son, Bruce Fulcher (dec.) served in Germany, returning to his wife, Sharon; two sons were his treasure–a son Jonathan was a Marine, and served in Africa. Fieldale must have seemed tame to both after returning home. Daughter Myra married a soldier during the Vietnam era.
Curtis Fulcher served in Paris in the Medical Corps, but his main duty was to assist in the freeing of the men from concentration camps. Many wanted to seek out the Germans, who were the source of concern with conditions but were called to duty to free the captured. His son, Dickerson, chose a position with the U.S. Tax Department. His daughter, Barbara, is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and his granddaughter is a physician. Her husband also is a physician and serves in the Army today. Curtis Fulcher never spoke to his siblings regarding his time in service. He and his wife Hazel enjoyed the quiet life upon his return.
Clarence Fulcher served in the Army as a munitions hauler. He was responsible for large numbers of munitions in addition to serving in the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. He watched for landmines, among other assignments. The misery was compounded by the location. It was a cold, dismal, muddy, rainy landscape. Sleeping in an issued sleeping bag did not provide comfort and present a sense of home.
At the end of the conflict, Clarence Fulcher and his buddy decided to share a ride home, via airplane, only to be bumped by two lieutenants. Clarence had to ride a very small boat home in seas that were described as the roughest in that year’s history. The captain told all on board that he did not think they could keep the crew in place to guide the ship. In reaching port, Clarence decided to chat with the officers who bumped him off the flight–only to be told the plane went down 15 minutes after takeoff. He often told that story to his wife, Irmagene, and son Ron.
Patrick County does not forget.
Cecil Junior Simmons (dec.) served in the Army and was stationed in Greenland. It was not green, and he was only a short distance from the Russian Border. He was in charge of delicate technical information, and was pleased to return home to join his wife Frances, (dec.). He worked in a local lumber plant, and was required to keep information “close to his chest.” He was always known as a quiet man. Daughters, Penny and Christy can probably attest to that.
John Reynolds served in both Army and Air Force settings. He was a technical information operator in Germany, handling highly technical Information for a variety of needs. When he returned to home, he became social worker; writing in really small letters seemed to be a left-over practice from military days.
Billy Perry (dec.), served in Germany and was in the Army during the construction of the Berlin Wall. He reported that was a very odd time, watching East Berlin sectioned off from West Berlin. He returned to his family, that included his wife Ann, and sons Jon, Jason and Stacey, and his dogs.
From the experiences of long ago to those more current, Eddie Bourne Spencer, husband of Myra Fulcher, served in Korea as a heavy truck hauler with high octane fuel. The North Koreans did not like the South Koreans, and watched each other over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), while the US watched both. Often the North and South Koreans would test fire at each other. Being within shooting range and hauling high octane fuel was not a comfortable place to be. Eddie reported it was cold and sparse in Korea. He returned home quietly and bought a blue Mustang convertible.
Patrick County has seen its share of men and women serve in military locations.
For instance, Jean Fulcher Haynes, (dec.), served as a nurse, during World War II, on the battlefield, as a combat nurse. She became a 2nd Lieutenant, and in later years, was heard to say, “we bathed in our helmets and sometimes ate from them, and we thought that was normal.” She was one of a large family of Fulchers, living near the old Patrick Springs Hotel. Her nearest sibling was Annie Fulcher Nowlin (dec.). Jean returned, married, had a child, and lived a productive life in Virginia.
Although a long-ago war, WWII became a most published event. Many thanks to those who answered questions, and provided information. Patrick County never forgets its own.
Saluting all who have served.