UNION — Two women whose sons lost their lives serving their country and three men who served in the military and now help feed the needy of their community were among those honored during Monday’s Union County Veterans Day Service.
The service was preceded by the Union County Veterans Day Parade which featured two marching bands, military vehicles, the high school JROTC, school essay and poster winners, and local veterans. The parade began at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Union County Courthouse and ended at the War Memorial at the intersection of Main and Mountain streets where the service was held.
As the parade made its way down the street, children from several local schools waved flag and red, white and blue pom poms while others held posters thanking America’s veterans for their service. The children present also included elementary student who won essay contests at their schools and others who won poster contests. The essays and posters dealt with the theme of this year’s parade and service which honored the families of active duty personnel and the sacrifices they make to support their spouse or parent or child as they serve their country.
The sacrifices of two of those parents was honored during the service when Azalee Ashe and Betty Baxley were recognized as Gold Star Mothers. Gold Star Mothers are women who have had a child die in military service. Ashe and Baxley each lost a son in the Vietnam War.
Jantzen Childers, service emcee, said that Ashe had lost her son, PFC Frank L. Barbee, on Aug. 28, 1966, in Phouc Tuy Province in Vietnam. He said that Baxley had lost her son, Thomas Ratliff, on March 30, 1971, in a helicopter crash on the Cambodia River.
Monday’s service also recognized Blue Star Families, families who have or have had children serving in the military.
This year’s parade had three parade marshals — James Littlejohn, Bill Littlejohn and Bill Craig — who Childers said were being honored not only for their military service but for their service to the community since leaving the military.
Childers said that James Littlejohn joined the U.S. Air Force in September 1942 and was trained as a flight engineer on a B-24 and a specialist on a B-17. He said Littlejohn served in England and during a flight over Belgium the nose on his plane was shot off.
Bill Littlejohn was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and was sent to New Caledonia and Okinawa in the Pacific Theatre of the war.
Childers said Bill Craig was company commander of the Jonesville S.C. Army Reserve National Guard, spending nine years in the Guard and being promoted to major.
Since leaving military service, Childers said the three have cultivated a garden which they use to help feed the needy of Union County.
“Decades later, the three gentlemen stand together, not in the military, but on the red dirt of the large garden they grow,” Childers said. “They give away and deliver hundreds of pounds of vegetables each year to others who aren’t able to grow a garden themselves and to those who are in need.”
Veteran Of The Year
The Veteran of the Year for 2012 was Col. William J. Whitener who Childers said was hospitalized and could not attend Monday’s service. He asked those present to remember Whitener and his family in their prayers.
While Whitener could not be present, Childers presented his biography which included graduation from West Point and 30 years of service in the U.S. Army; his marriage to Union native Martha Pacolette “Packie” Whitener in 1952; his service in the field of education including the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, the Board of Trustees of the S.C. Research Authority, the S.C. General Assembly’s Select Committee for the Education Improvement Act, interim chancellor of USC-Spartanburg, the Educational Advisory Committee for USC-Upstate, and the Union/Laurens Commission for Higher Education.
Childers also cited Whitener’s being awarded the Order of the Palmetto by Gov. Carroll Campbell; his membership in the Union Rotary Club; service on the Unionn County Health Care Foundation; on the board of trustees of the Spartanburg Regional Medical Heart Center; and his involvement with the Union County Historical Society and the Union Community Foundation.
In addition to Whitener’s hospitalization, Childers said that the 2011 Veteran of the Year, I.G. Vanderford, had been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. He asked for prayers for Vanderford and his family as well.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.