Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EDITOR'S NOTES: Make this Memorial Day a memorable day to honor military service


A unique bronze plaque that went nearly forgotten for many years has found a new home here in Dorchester County.

The relatively simple nameplate contains a short list of names -- all men who gave their lives in the service of their country during the Vietnam War.

The plaque was commissioned by the Vietnam Veterans of Dorchester County. It was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1997, about 30 years after most of those listed died.

Now, two decades later, the plaque is once again on public display at the The Dorchester County Archives and History Center in St. George. It is part of the comprehensive military exhibit that will be unveiled during Monday’s Memorial Day services there. The plaque was previously part of the old county courthouse.

I had a chance to visit the exhibit a couple of weeks ago while it was undergoing some final touches in preparation for its opening.

You can find Jenna-Ley Harrison’s report on the display in today’s Journal Scene.

The History Center has hopes of contacting the families of the following servicemen listed on the plaque:

William Ellis Jr.
H. Marion Singletary Jr.
Donald R. Bair
Clarence L. Way
Thomas W. Poore
William Jenkins
Clement B. Gruber
Gary K. Roberts
Joseph O. Strickland
Jerry T. Driggers
William T. Smith
Larry Villanueva
Chris Brown Jr.
John L. Hines
Jack W. Brasington

There may be families of others from Dorchester County who gave their lives for their country during the Vietnam War, and the center is anxious to make contact with them as well. The center is also compiling war casualty lists to create additional plaques for World War II and the Korean War.

With Memorial Day approaching, the History Center has planned an impressive ceremony that includes programs in Summerville and a police escorted motorcade to St. George, where visitors will hear from Henry L. “Hank” Taylor.

Taylor begin his military career in the Navy in 1968 during the Vietnam War. He later served in the Air Force, advancing to command the the first logistics group to support the B-2 bomber. Before retiring as a brigadier general he served as vice director for logistics with the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.

His highly decorated uniform includes the Bronze Star Medal, as well as service medals from his actions from Vietnam -- where he earned the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm in recognition of deeds of valor or heroic conduct while in combat -- to his service during the Liberation of Kuwait.

If you have a chance to attend Monday’s service, it will be well worth your time.

A few years ago I met the widow of a man, also a Bronze Star recipient, who went to war during World War II and retired after 24 years with the Army. Joy Ayers worked as a medic and later in the finance corps.

An oak leaf cluster he wore with his Bronze Star ribbon showed that it was the second time during his service in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam that he had been decorated with the honor.

After retiring from the Army, Ayers boxed up his uniform, put away his medals and became an accomplished gardener, developing several unique varieties of roses. He and his wife were well known in Pacific Northwest for their beautiful garden that included more than 100 variety of roses.

When I asked his wife about his military service and the circumstances regarding his Bronze Star, she had little to say.

"He never talked about it," she said.

It’s like that for many who have protected us during wartime. It’s for that reason that we celebrate on Memorial Day. I can only imagine the great service that we have asked of our military men and women. And I have the greatest respect for those who have answered the call.

Like the simple bronze plaque that now hangs in the Dorchester History Center, it is incumbent upon all Americans to not let those who served be lost to history.

This Memorial Day take time to share the memories of the men and women who serve.

David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at dkennard@journalscene.com or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.