BW remembers and thanks veterans

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood Historical Society’s annual Veterans Day event lived up to the hype.

About 200 people turned out in ideal fall weather Sunday afternoon to honor, remember and thank veterans at the Palmetto Citizens Credit Union Amphitheater in Doko Park.

As the ceremony opened and the strains of the National Anthem swelled in the park, the audience rose to salute or place their hands over their hearts. And from there, organizers said, it was every bit the emotional, heartwarming program they had hoped for.

A row of vintage jeeps, trucks and other military vehicles sporting American flags rimmed the park, and military vendors dotted the grounds including an exhibit of a military camp complete with uniformed soldiers, tents, guns and other accouterments of war – even c-rations.

Blythewood Mayor LTC (Ret) Bryan Franklin emceed the program with former Mayor Maj. (Ret) Keith Bailey assisting. LTC (Ret.) Major General Van McCarty, Adjutant General of the S.C. National Guard, was the speaker.

Blythewood’s Vance and Jeannie Sharpe entertained with patriotic songs, and Christie Lomas recited the poem, Ragged Old Flag. Audience members were recognized in regard to their branch of service and LTC James Ard recognized the following four veterans who were presented Quilts of Valor.

U.S. Airman Second Class James Beckham served at Sondrestorm AF Base in central Greenland where he was assigned to the 4084th Air Base Group of approximately 100 Air Force personnel responsible for maintaining the airfields, runways and infrastructure. Sondrestorm was a critical strategic base during the Cold War Era which was a deterrent between the two superpowers, the United States and USSR. Somdrestorm also served, among other things, to support air refueling tankers and trans-Atlantic ferry flights for short-range jet fighters transiting to the European Theater to deter Soviet Union aggression.

U.S. Army Master Sergeant Willie Enztminger served first in the Air Force and then in the S.C. National Guard where he continued his service as a jet engine aircraft mechanic on the F-105, a supersonic fighter bomber aircraft used during the Vietnam War. He earned a degree in criminal justice and completed a second military occupational specialty as a military police non-commissioned (NCO) officer. Enztminger later transferring to the U.S. Army Reserves where he became a qualified instructor in the NCO career progression schools that train soldiers how to lead at varying level from Sergeant to Command Sergeant Major.

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Carlton Payne enlisted in the USMC and volunteered to deploy to Southeast Asia (Vietnam) under the WWII era Sullivan’s Brother Policy in the hope that his younger brother, a U.S. Army Medic, would be spared deployment to Vietnam. Following his tour of duty in Vietnam, Payne – a musician – was reassigned to Parris Island where he earned his second military occupational specialty as a USMC Bandsman. A trumpeter, he participated in USMC graduation ceremonies, change of command ceremonies and he performed TAPS at funerals of returning Killed in Action (KIA) solders and veteran funerals. Upon discharge, Payne attended S.C. State College, Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA and the Rhode Island School of Electronics.  

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade George Schork was newly graduated from Babson College in Massachusetts when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He transferred to the U.S. Navy where he attended Officer Candidate School (OCS) and was assigned first to Alaska, then to the USS Henry County, a landing ship where, as one of four commissioned officers his mission was to transport Marines, vehicles, supplies and equipment to the east coast of Vietnam in support of the war effort. He also transported and infiltrated U.S. Navy Seals in amphibious assaults up narrow and shallow rivers within the North Vietnamese coast and then provided fire support and shore bombardment to ensure the Seals’ success.

The four men were then each wrapped in a handmade quilt by Historical Society members Frankie McLean and Carolyn Lomas.

Duane Walker, a Quilt of Valor quilter, explained that the quilts presented to the four retired military men were awards for their valor and were to be used for warmth and comfort, not to be folded up and put away for safekeeping.

Following the quilt presentation, Historical Society President Kitty Farnell invited all veterans present to ride in designated military vehicles in a Parade of Honor that wound around the park.

Blythewood Town Councilman and Navy veteran Eddie Baughman ended the program with a flag retirement ceremony.