Community rallies to recognize area veterans

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — His friendly blue eyes were well complemented by his white and sky-blue shirt. His smile was quick to appear to greet a passing friend or stranger.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Jack Hudson, right, and Ronald Wallace, in orange, go through the buffet-style line for chicken, baked beans, slaw and plenty more on Saturday at the North Carolina National Guard Armory in Hamlet during the inaugural Celebration of Armed Forces.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Jack Hudson, right, and Ronald Wallace, in orange, go through the buffet-style line for chicken, baked beans, slaw and plenty more on Saturday at the North Carolina National Guard Armory in Hamlet during the inaugural Celebration of Armed Forces.

The eyes and smile hide the atrocities of war Jack Hudson saw in North Korea in 1951. As a Private First Class in the Army’s 5th Regimental Combat Team, Hudson was on the front line from Inchon to north of the 38th parallel that now separates the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south.

The armistice signed July 27, 1953, did nothing to help Hudson and his band of brothers from forgetting what happened as he fought the North Koreans and Chinese carrying his ruck sack, his Browning Automatic Rifle and a .45 pistol over mountainous terrain, in severe cold and high heat.

Hudson, 83, of Rockingham, recalled on Saturday suffering from frostbite during the inaugural Celebration of the Armed Forces at the North Carolina National Guard Armory in Hamlet. The event, organized by Patricia Davis, Rena Shedrick-Marshall and Stan Sellers, served as a welcome home for many of the veterans from the wars in Korea and Vietnam who received something other than a hero’s welcome when the returned from combat.

“This is a great day for veterans,” Hudson said as approximately 100 veterans and family members gathered at the armory by Boyd Lake.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Part of the goal of the Celebration of Armed Forces event was to offer the opportunity for veterans to meet other veterans.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Part of the goal of the Celebration of Armed Forces event was to offer the opportunity for veterans to meet other veterans.

His return home, Hudson said, was “no reception whatsoever.”

The Korean War is often referred to as The Forgotten War, and Hudson said it continues to be overlooked between discussions of World War II and Vietnam. The statistics are staggering — making it difficult to understand how the war could fall off anyone’s radar. American forces suffered 33,739 casualties in combat and a total of 103,284 American service members were wounded.

Those figures don’t begin to tell the whole story. The final toll on the two host countries of the war included: South Korea’s military lost 217,000 people; North Korea’s military, 406,000. Combined, 1.6 million civilians were killed during the war.

The two countries had been divided at the 38th parallel in 1948. On June 25, 1950, North Korea crossed the dividing line and attacked with a force of 135,000. Americans entered the war on July 5, 1950.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A handmade sign in support of Vietnam veterans.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A handmade sign in support of American veterans from all conflicts.

Ronald Wallace won’t watch a war movie ever again. He watched “Platoon,” which debuted in 1986, because he was told that it was about Vietnam. While many war movies — and today, video games — make combat look like fun, this one did not.

Here is a movie that regards combat from ground level, from the infantryman’s point of view, and it does not make war look like fun,” wrote famed movie critic Roger Ebert.

Wallace served in Vietnam. He was intrigued. He was sorry.

“Someone asked me, ‘did you enjoy the movie? That was not a movie I’d enjoy.”

Wallace served in the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th LIB, Americal Division. He attained the rank of specialist in part because he was willing to do his duty. He first carried the M16 rifle but later, a superior suggested he carry the M60, which offered both greater firepower and a shorter life expectancy.

“They didn’t tell me I’d probably be the first one shot at,” Wallace said.

His superior, Wallace said, “was appealing to my size and strength.”

Wallace, now 66 and living in Rockingham, was drafted in May and was in combat five months later. After Basic Training at Fort Bragg, he was sent to Advanced Individual Training at Fort Polk, La.

“When you went to Fort Polk, you knew you were going to Vietnam,” Wallace said.

More than 3.4 million members of America’s armed forces served in the Southeast Asia Theater of Operations from 1965 to 1975, including nearly 2.6 million within the borders of South Vietnam. American forces suffered 47,359 casualties, and another 303,704 were wounded in action. More than 75,000 service members were classified as “severely disabled.” Another 2,338 were declared missing in action (a number which has dropped to 1,642).

The average age of a GI was 19.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A handmade sign in support of Vietnam veterans.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A handmade sign in support of Vietnam veterans.

The Israeli military has launched an offensive in Gaza City. In the six-day operation, 160 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded. 

Hudson is a Baptist. Wallace is Methodist. Both are Protestants. They disagree on a lot of things through their friendship. One of them is what’s going on in Israel and whether U.S. intervention is required — and if so, in what matter.

“We gotta do something,’ Hudson said.

Wallace doesn’t necessarily disagree. But he sighs.

“I’m a firm believer that war is a last resolution,” Wallace said. “I think our president is doing a good job at that.”

Far too many veterans didn’t receive the welcome home they deserved, according to Davis, Shedrick-Marshall and Sellers. So the trio “worked really, really hard,” Shedrick-Marshall said, to pull off the inaugural Celebration of Armed Forces.

“All we could do was hope people showed up,” Shedrick-Marshall said.

They did. Perhaps it was because they knew Pops Fowler was grillmaster for the day, or that Jimmy Reese was in charge of the music. Or that more than four dozen area businesses, nonprofit organizations and a number of private residents too numerous to count had donated cash, material or goods to the cause.

Handmade signs were displayed on the walls throughout the inside of the armory.

* “All veterans: Welcome. Thank you. We are safe today because of you!”

* “Thanks for being brave and strong. Hold your heads up, and know what a great job you all have done!”

* “Vietnam veterans: Welcome home. Thanks for a job well done.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A handmade sign in support of Vietnam veterans. The list of businesses and organizations that supported the inaugural Celebration of the Armed Forces.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A handmade sign in support of Vietnam veterans.
The list of businesses and organizations that supported the inaugural Celebration of the Armed Forces.

Organizers put in about $1,000 for the food, plus between $300 and $400 in decorations, which put a touch of class on what was otherwise an informal, come-as-you-are social gathering. Representatives of the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Hamlet were on hand, as were officials from the VA Center in Fayetteville. Representatives from both entities were on hand to answer questions or direct veterans where they can go for help depending on the need.

The hard work paid off, but it’s far from over. Shedrick-Marshall said there is an underserved population of homeless veterans that need the community’s helps. She’s willing to take a first step by offering bags of toiletries and snacks to those she can find.

If you know of a homeless veteran in need of support, please contact Shedrick-Marshall at 910-205-2862.

 

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News

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  • Dianne Emanuel

    Many thanks to the organizers and all who helped put on this event. It was excellent, and we hope, will become an annual affair.

    • Daffy

      Absolutely the right thing to do for these true “HEROS”. No greater love have man than that he would lay down his life for his fellow man. I would have been honored to have known about and to have taken part in this event. Call me next time ! I will always make time/effort for a serviceman/woman. They made time/effort for me and mine. Thank you all for what you have done.

  • Patricia Davis

    Daffy, So sorry you missed the event. Both newspapers had it posted in the event calendar and it was announced on radio. If you give me your telephone number I will certainly keep you informed.

    It was an honor to be a part of organizing the event. We wanted to honor all veterans of all wars rather than one specific group. It was a time for veterans to meet others that shared in their experiences, reconnect, and have a fun day.

    I posted the sign of local businesses etc. that supported the event because I felt it was important to show the veterans some of the businesses that supported them. As I was contacting local businesses, I received so many positive remarks and just as many asked me to be sure and extend a “Thank you for your service” to those veterans who served so bravely, sacrificed much, and kept us safe.

    Many of the local veterans perform community service, giving back to help those in need. AMVETS Post 316 fits into that category. Without their help and equipment, I would not have been able to reach our goal. The VVA, VFW, and DAV also provided support.

    I regret that I didn’t have time to speak to more veterans during the event, but I’m glad that the event was a positive experience.

    • Daffy

      I never check the events pages. I can see that I should. Please email me jcollins997@msn.com Thanks

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