Veterans, families honored

By Shelby Inscore Puckett

A group of Vietnam era veterans were honored at a recent Veteran’s Tribute.  (Contributed photo by J. Denise Coalson and Colleen Puckett)

Veterans and their service were showcased and highlighted during a recent Veterans Tribute at The Hollow History Center in Ararat.

Isaiah Puckett, currently a member of the U. S. Army Reserve and a great-great-great grandson of a Civil War veteran, led the pledge of allegiance.

Thelma Jean Dellenback Pack, the daughter of a WWII veteran, led the singing of the National Anthem and the closing song, “God Bless America.” Pack’s four siblings were in service during the Vietnam War era: brothers Charlie Jr., George, and Walter, were or served in the Army. Her sister Mary Dellenback Hill was a member of the U. S. Marine Corps.

While the program emphasized the service and sacrifice of Roger Dale Bowman and the veterans of the Vietnam era, veterans of other wars also were paid tribute.

Harlan Hawks, an Ararat veteran who served in Vietnam and now is Commander of the VFW Post 9436 in Pilot Mountain, N.C., recognized WWII veterans Turner Thompson and Joe Scales. Thompson was one of six brothers to simultaneously serve during WWII. While that likely is a record for the community, it is not the record for Thompson’s family, with nine brothers of his Puckett ancestry served during the Civil War — eight for the Confederacy and one for the Union.  (A grandson of one of the Puckett soldiers attended the event.)

Korean War veterans Cardwood Harold and Troy Brammer also were recognized.

Jeff Puckett, who retired after 35 years of service in the U. S. Air Force and who conceived, oversaw, and helped in the preparation of a shadowbox containing the recently discovered medals and ribbons of Roger Dale Bowman, spoke to attendees about Bowman’s time of service.  Weaving together events that were occurring in the United States with the ongoing action in Vietnam, Puckett took his audience back to that turbulent year of 1968 in our history.

Bowman served in Vietnam from April 3, 1968 to August 15, 1968. Three days before he entered Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek reelection; two days later Martin Luther King was killed; and in June of that year Robert F. Kennedy also was killed.

While unrest across the nation was happening at home, action in Vietnam was at a high level with the American troops in almost constant combat with the North Vietnamese, according to Puckett.

He recounted that 1968 was the deadliest year for America and its Allies, with America suffering 16,592 killed in that year.  On the day Bowman died, 15 Americans were killed, including another soldier in Bowman’s unit who died in the same mortar attack. The cause of death was listed as a mis-adventure (friendly fire).

Bowman’s closest friend, Jake Johnson, was severely injured in the incident. He was shipped to a hospital in Japan.  Johnson and his wife Kathy, now live in Forked River, N.J., but during a visit to Ararat in November 2011, Johnson recalled the horrific feeling of coming back into consciousness and learning of two deaths and the extensive injuries of two other comrades.

Jeff Puckett presented a shadow-box that contains Roger Dale Bowman’s medal and ribbons to The Hollow Center. (Contributed photos by J. Denise Coalson and Colleen Puckett)

In addition to the shadowbox containing the medals and ribbons, Puckett also presented The Hollow History Center with a shadowbox featuring an etching of Bowman’s name from the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D. C.

The two boxes will be prominently displayed at the History Center to ensure Bowman’s sacrifice will be remembered and honored.

Veterans from the Vietnam War era were recognized and presented a commemorative lapel pin.

The commemorative pin features an eagle for courage, honor, and dedicated service to county; a blue circle for vigilance, perseverance, and justice; a laurel wreath for victory, integrity, and strength; stripes for American flag; six stars representing the US and our Allies in the defense of South Vietnam-Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.  On the back of the pin closest to the heart of the wearer are these words:  “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The awards were possible through a Vietnam 50 Year Commemoration Committee created in 2008 by then President Barack Obama and continued by President Donald Trump. The committee’s mission is to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam era for service and sacrifice, the families of those veterans and to highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the war.

Recipients of the medals Saturday included members of all branches of the service.

Harlan Hawks recognized Turner Thompson, a WWII veteran, at a recent ceremony in Ararat.

Two female veterans were present–one a US Air Force veteran and the other a member of the US Marine Corps. Puckett noted that 7500 women served in Vietnam with 84 percent as nurses.  Of those eight died; one in direct combat.

Although there was opposition to the Vietnam War and many returning veterans received negative reaction upon returning to the United States, Puckett said statistics show Vietnam veterans are held in high esteem by 87 percent of the country today.  He stated the Vietnam veterans have lead the way in this country becoming businessmen, professionals, elected officials, mentors, and  responsible parents and citizens.

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