Thanks for your service

Published 1:22 am Saturday, October 31, 2009

Few things can bring a blanket of silence over a crowded room like an old war story.

Regardless of age, most of us revert to a starry-eyed five year old when one of our nations veterans begin recalling the tales of their service.

As I read about, and later listened to, Col. Julian D. Sawyer, USAF and Brigadier Gen. John W. Collins III reflect on their military duties I could easily envision myself as a small child sitting cross-legged on the floor hanging on every word.

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Yesterday, these two men were inducted into the Alabama Hall of Honor on the historic campus of Marion Military Institute. The ceremony was followed by a parade by the Corps of Cadets on the Givhan Parade Field.

After attending Marion Military Institute, Gen. Collins was appointed to the United States Military Academy.

Commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, on June 1, 1943, he joined the 106th Infantry Division and served with them in Europe.

During the Korean War, he served as a battalion commander in the 45th and 2nd Infantry Divisions.

In Vietnam, while commander and deputy commander 1st Brigade 101st Airborne Division, he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge with star for his heroic actions during combat.

There lies a tremendous amount of decoration and commitment.

After flight training, Col. Sawyer served in aviation assignments in the U.S., Europe and Vietnam.

On Sept. 24, 1959, at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, when an F100F aircraft crash-landed and burst into flames, then-Capt. Sawyer rushed to the scene with complete disregard for his own safety and assisted in saving the injured crewman.

That story is one that plays a key element in virtually every war movie ever made, with only one distinction: This one was real.

For his action, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal.

During three tours in Vietnam as a wing commander and fighter pilot, he was awarded the Silver Star, four Distinguished Flying Crosses and 22 air medals.

Both of my grandfathers are service veterans, of the Army and Navy respectively.

I remember being little and both of them telling stories about their duties.

I offer my thanks to these brave men who served our county so admirably and congratulations for being awarded such an honor.

Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.