While we were in Virginia, my husband and I had the honor of interviewing some veterans from the various wars about their experiences and personal stories. This year, Wednesday, November 11, 2020 is VETERANS’ DAY. Fly your flags in their honor.
I would like to place these American men and women once again in the spotlight for their courage and dedication to the victories they fought for freedom. We were told by many that they had never been interviewed. How sad this is and as we are losing many of our World War II veterans every day, we must not forget any of them from all wars.
Below are those veterans that are highlighted in the chapters of my book, Men and Women of Valor in the Blue Ridge. Certainly, there are veterans to honor throughout our country…and to all of them we say THANK YOU!
- World War II…3.7 years…1941-1945
- Korean War…3.1 years…1950-1953
- Vietnam War 20 years…1955-1975
- Persian Gulf War…1/2 year…1990-1991
- War in Afghanistan 16.6 years 2001-Present
- Iraq War. 8.8 years …2003-2011
- Wars on ISIL or ISIS (extremists) 2014-Present
Our HONOREES for this year 2020:
“MC” HAROLD...Korean War with U.S. Army…Fought at Heartbreak Ridge against N. Koreans and Chinese. Legs frozen, but at the last minute before being amputated, the surgeon helped him stand…and the blood flowed throughout his legs. MC said, “This was my miracle from God.” He is now in the Veteran’s Hospital in VA. after a long career, with his family, of growing apples off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“NEVER IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN CONFLICT WAS SO MUCH OWED BY SO MANY TO SO FEW.” Winston Churchill 1940 WWII
ROBERT REDUS III “ROB” Rob served on Submarines during the Vietnam War. His subs were USS George Washington Carver, USS Sam Rayburn, and in retirement is a member of the American Legion in Galax, VA. In his mountain home, he enjoys woodworking and calls himself an “Accidental Artist.”
DR.THOMAS J.WHARTENBY “TOM” Tom served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army Combat Engineers. The U.S. Army helped the Vietnam people with food and medical help. As difficult as the war was, he especially enjoyed the children, who he said that they were always smiling at the troops. Nevertheless, he was saddened to see their hunger when they “gobbled down the food” given to them. The older children tried to do projects of cleaning, carpentry or shining boots. After the war, Tom found work, but felt the call to go into the Christian ministry. For over 40 years, he has been the pastor of the Galax Presbyterian Church in VA. His wife, Mary Elizabeth, is the organist and choir director. To enjoy one of Tom’s great sermons, you can hear them recorded each week on their church website.
“THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS IS FREEDOM and the SECRET TO FREEDOM IS COURAGE.” Thucydides, Greek historian
PAUL J. CHILDRESS… Paul served in World War II, Army infantry, under Patton and guarded the prisoners of Dachau, as they awaited their punishment of death after convictions in the post war trials. On of those prisoners was Claus Karl Schilling, the doctor who used prisoners as human guinea pigs. Paul’s father’s complete story, well-known in the Blue Ridge mountains, is the book, Man Who Moved a Mountain. Paul’s memories of the war are also placed in the Library of Congress. Paul and his wife, Anna, were very active in the Buffalo Mountain Presbyterian Church in the VA mountains.
Worldwide Casualties (WWII Museum)
Battle Deaths, 15,000,000/ Battle wounded 25,000,000/ Civilian Deaths 45,000,000
CLINTON MOLES…served in the U.S. Navy as a Gunner’s mate. He described the enemy raids as coming so close that he could see the pilot’s face. In 2018, we visited Clinton, who was in a nursing home in Virginia and was 98 years old.
LEONARD MASHALL: Leonard served in the U.S. Navy and survived the sinking of the USS Gambier Bay in shark infested waters during WWII. His Uncle Donald Bowman also served his country in Korea.
TROY DARRELL DAVIS: Troy served in the U.S. Army as a Command Sergeant Major. He served in Panama, Germany and was part of the Mobile Riverine Force, stationed aboard the USS Benewaugh. He tells about his time when his unit came under fire by the Viet Cong. Troy passed away this year, 2020. He was living in Spain. His ashes were to be brought stateside for burial, but the Covid-19 virus interrupted the family’s trip. When he is buried, it will be along side his wife in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
SHARON AND FRANK PLICHTA A husband and wife, who married in Germany, both ended up servicing in Vietnam at the same time. Sharon was a nurse, who worked often under enemy fire. She was awarded the Bronze Star. Sharon said, “We worked 12 hour shifts or longer. Our job was to stabilize the patient and evacuate him as soon as possible.” The nurses who were brought in to help her and the medical unit lost their lives in a plane crash on a return trip. Great was the sacrifice of so many! Sharon attended the The Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. when dedicated.
FRANK R.PLICHTA Serving in the U.S. Army, Frank was a Lt. Colonel with U.S. Army. He was in the infantry in Germany and with the Signal Battalion 4th infantry Division in Vietnam. He also received the Bronze Star w Bronze Oak Leaf for meritorious service as well as the Army Commendation Medal. During one of his missions in Vietnam, he went by helicopter to various points where he had 220 men under his command. On one occasion, as he was being taken by helicopter, they came under enemy attack. Frank ran for the bunker, took care of the troops and called for the pilot to return when the attack was over. After Vietnam, he served in the Reserves. In civilian life, he has had many leadership positions as well as being an ROTC instructor in Missouri, which was known as the “West Point of the West.” In the Blue Ridge, Frank is still active in the American Legion and involved in the Veterans Memorial located in Galax, Virginia. He says, ” I pray that God has something else that He wants me to do. I appreciate my good health and enjoy the projects that He has put in my path.”
ELMO L McALEXANDER Elmo served in the U.S. Army as a Sergeant. He was assigned to the 22nd Field Artillery Medical Unit. As a medic, he said his job was to “keep the men well and on their feet.” Speaking highly of the doctors and medical teams of which he was a part, “I can honestly say that the best thing was their compassion for the patients. They also treated the medics with great respect. If we had bandaged or sutured in the field, they often would compliment us on a job well done. It was good to be appreciated.” After returning home from the war, Elmo would be for the next 32 years the Superintendent of the Virginia Department of Transportation. He and his wife, Eunafaye are active Christians in the Bluemont Presbyterian Rock Church on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
TOMMY ELLIS Tommy served in the United States Marines. He spent time in Greece, Italy, Malta and Sardinia. When the movie PATTON was being made, he landed on the beach of Timbokian Island of Crete. He remembers that his ship had one scene in the filming. It was cold and windy. Since leaving the service, Tommy has been active as a Commander of the Rifle Detail of the Marine Corp League of Wilkesboro, N.C. that covers the foothills of the Blue Ridge for the Marine Corp. There are about 50 members who are called on when there is a veteran who dies. Their duty will be to give special honor to these men and women with a gun salute. Tommy has a real heart for the Honor Guard service. It is definitely true….”Once a Marine…ALWAYS A MARINE.” The honor guard members have stories to tell of their battle experiences. One distinguished member, named Ewin Canter, recalls that he was being carried out on a stretcher at Mt. Suribachi in Iwo Jimo when a mortar attack caused the marines to drop him. Two of them were killed, and he also was wounded again, but survived.
ROY E. McALEXANDER, the brother of Elmo, has taken part in over 1,000 burials and Honor Tributes for the Blue Ridge Veterans.
This blog would not be complete without giving a THANK YOU to all the wives and families of veterans who kept the home fires burning. Many of them, including my Mother, worked in the factories to get supplies to the troops during WWII.
If you would like to read the complete stories of all these veterans, you may find them at this link: Men and Women of Valor in the Blue Ridge
From all wars, there were many gravely wounded veterans…changing their lives forever. They need our help. One organization that is building specialized homes for these veterans is HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS. (Words in blue are links for your viewing.)
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We can only say “Hallelujah” for all the veterans and their courage to keep freedom strong! You are the best and we will always remember your sacrifices because you are truly men and women of valor.