Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TOP STORY >> Communities salute our vets

Hank Lambert, an 11-year Marine veteran who served in the Korean War, receives an award Wednesday from veterans service officer Sam High during a Veterans Day ceremony held at Spring Creek Living Center in Cabot.

Members of the Little Rock Air Force Base honor guard were on hand to give a rifle salute during the Veterans Day ceremony at the Sherwood Veterans Memorial.

By JEFFREY SMITH and JOHN HOFHEIMER 
Leader staff writers

Sherwood was the first area city to recognize veterans for their contribution to our nation’s freedom. Members of the Sherwood Rotary Club, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, along with elected officials, participated Nov. 8 in a special recognition at the Sherwood Veterans Memorial.

The audience included veterans from the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mayor Virginia Hillman and incoming Sherwood Rotary president Marcia Cook placed a wreath on the memorial wall. The Little Rock Air Force Base honor guard presented the colors, fired a gun salute and played Taps during the ceremony.

Alderman Butch Davis said after the ceremony, “It is important to remember the veterans and the ones who served before us.

They are the ones who made us free, and today soldiers are the ones who keep us free. I always thank them for their service.”

“It is important for soldiers to hear thank you. Sherwood should have a parade for veterans,” Davis said.

During the Vietnam War Davis was a platoon sergeant in the Army. He was shot in July 1969. Davis received multiple shrapnel wounds. He was struck in the neck, back, shoulders, buttocks and leg.

Davis was paralyzed from his neck down for a year. Davis was awarded the Purple Heart and is a Bronze Star recipient.

Attending the veterans ceremony was 87-year-old James Chappell of North Little Rock. During the Second World War, Chappell joined the Navy at age 19. He was a gunner on the light cruiser the USS St. Louis in the Pacific Ocean.

Later in the war, Chappell went to the Navy hospital corps in San Diego. He was a pharmacist mate first class on the USS Pastores.

He said the Pastores was a refrigerated ship that carried frozen goods and delivered supplies to troops on islands in the Pacific.

Chappell said, “We took turkeys to MacArthur in the Philippines for Thanksgiving.

“After the war was over, we decommissioned the medical unit in landing ship tanks in San Francisco,” he said.

When Chappell got out of the service, he earned a pharmacy degree from the University of Tennessee in Memphis.

Chappell’s pharmaceutical career spanned 40 years in North Little Rock and Little Rock until he retired at age 72.

The Veterans Day assembly at Northwood Middle School may have had special significance for about one-sixth of the approximately 600 students who gathered in the gym Nov.10 for a program officiated over by Little Rock Air Force Base personnel.                                            

Study hard and behave, Lt. Col. Jerome Osurman told students, many of whom have military parents.  

“Freedom isn’t free,” said Osurman, commander of the 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at the nearby base. “It’s paid for by sacrifice. For some, it’s the ultimate sacrifice that we may live in freedom.”

He said their parents and others in the military are the tip of the spear. Osurman said he grew up in Hawaii, where his parents, Pearl Harbor survivors, were headed for  church when the bombs began falling. “On Sept. 11, our nation answered another call to duty. We need your support,” he said. “Our enemy wants to take us down.”

The focal point of the assembly was a prisoner-of-war, missing-in-action table ceremony. A white table cloth was surrounded by five empty chairs symbolizing those missing, captured or dead from the five branches of the military.

The base honor guard assisted in the ceremonies and the pledge of allegiance. Students Diana Reiss and Maddie Turcotte sang the Star Spangled Banner, harmonizing in places and hitting the high notes. 

Chief Master Sgt. Frankie McGriff narrated the event. He said the World War I Armistice, when all sides agreed to formally stop the war, took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

After the Second World War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, according to McGriff. He told students that 340,000 Americans did not return home safely from World War I and World War II. In the Korean War, 23,300 Americans died and another 57,000 died in Vietnam. 

He said 246 more died during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and so far, 5,278 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those attending from Pulaski County Special School District were interim Superintendent Rob McGill, board member Danny Gilliland and chief financial officer Anita Farver.