ROGERSVILLE — Former Congressman Bill Jenkins was the perfect choice to introduce the families of Hawkins County's POW/MIA families Friday at Rogersville's American Legion Post 21 because he personally knew several, as well as their family histories.
Jenkins not only knows most of the families, he knew many of the soldiers who were being recognized in Friday's third annual POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony, including World War II POW Sgt. Howard B. Flowers, who was his father's best friend.
Flowers was represented at Friday's ceremony by daughters Nancy Padgham and Jane Rhodes and granddaughter Blair Aderhold, who Jenkins made a promise to during last year's ceremony.
Flowers had joined the Army prior to WWII and sent the Jenkins family a Christmas card from Manila, Philippines, that was postmarked Nov. 12, 1940.
Jenkins regretted not bringing at least a copy of that card last year and promised to bring it this year.
“It's a beautiful card,” Jenkins said. “My mother kept it after Daddy died and gave it to me, and I've still got it. I was tempted to give it to these folks, but I'd like to keep it a little bit longer. But I've made a wonderful picture. This is on a seashell, and it says, 'From far-away Philippines, with sincere wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and Howard's signature is very legible and easy to see on this picture.”
All Hawkins County POW/MIA families who could be located and were in attendance Friday received a certificate of appreciation for their family's sacrifice.
Aderhold received a special certificate and pin for helping lead the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as a photo of her grandfather’s Christmas card and the envelope it arrived in 79 years ago.
Jenkins added, “I know that you will enjoy this, and I want to give it to you — this young lady who led the Pledge of Allegiance, and I hope you'll cherish that as a memory of your grandfather.”
Post 21 Commander Dennis Elkins opened Friday's ceremony by reminding attendees, “You're the reason that we're here, because parents, grandparents, husbands, wives are the reason we have this privilege here today.”
“They will not be forgotten,” Elkins added.
Vice Commander Jim Weart introduced the symbolic POW/MIA table.
During his opening prayer, Post 21 Chaplain Gary Snyder thanked the “Commander of All” for the soldiers who were POW/MIA, their families and all soldiers.
“Today we honor the POW/MIAs, the stories they never got to tell, the life they might have had, and the families who were left behind wondering what happened to their loved ones,” Snyder prayed.
A video of the entire ceremony can be seen in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net
Jenkins was assisted in handing out certificates to the family members present by State Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville.
Among the POW/MIAs and their families who were honored Friday were (in the order the were called):
— Sgt. McCauley Price and Pvt. Kay Price, both of whom were POWs and were represented Friday by their niece Jean Napier.
— Pvt. Lee S. Charles, a POW, who was represented Friday by his sons Kenneth Charles and Gerald Charles.
Jenkins: “Their father came home in really bad physical condition because of his treatment as a POW in the European Theater. Amazingly, he traveled through life. It was a long life, and he traveled through many, many disabilities. Not only was Lee there, but everybody in the family (served). They weren't all in WWII, but even later all his brothers served in the military.”
— Pvt. Ross H. “Dinky” Mayes, a POW, whose surviving family wasn't able to attend Friday due to a recently diagnosed illness.
— Pvt. Jessie M. “J.M.” Carpenter, a POW, who was represented by brother Gale Carpenter and daughter Anita Hamblen.
Jenkins noted that Gale Carpenter was a combat veteran in the Korean War and his other brother Guy Carpenter was a WWII veteran.
Gale Carpenter: “I'd just like to say that I thank God. There was three of us that fought, and God saw fit to let all three of us come back home. I know it was through Him. It wasn't what we done, and I want to thank Him.”
— Sgt. John Huff, a POW, whose son John Huff Jr. and daughter Debbie Bacon weren't able to attend Friday. Sgt. Huff planned to attend last year’s ceremony but sadly passed away the day of the event.
— Pvt. Lawrence Shoemaker, a POW, whose family was unable to attend. Elkins noted that Shoemaker was expected to attend last year's ceremony and was hospitalized shortly before it took place. But Shoemaker received his certificate at the hospital. He passed away a short time later.
— PFC. Heiskell M. Williams, MIA, whose brother Don Williams was unable to attend.
— Pvt. Lewis E. Price was an MIA from WWII whose remains were identified last year thanks to DNA. Pfc. Lewis was returned home to Rogersville to be buried this last December with his family. His granddaughter Rhonda Price was unable to attend.
— Pfc. Lloyd Delph, a POW, who was represented Friday by his sister Cleo Bean.
— Cpl. James C. Greer, a POW, who was represented by daughters Sue Davis, Wilma Bledsoe, Betty Sandidge and Sarah Clifton.
Jenkins: “Your nation appreciates what he gave to this country. Everybody who is participating is proud of you, your family and everybody else who has sacrificed in this way.”
— Sgt. Ralph C. Marshall, a POW, who was represented by daughters Barbara Gibbons and Elizabeth Potter.
— Lt. Raymond E. Horne Jr., a POW, whose sister Dottie Heck planned to attend Friday's ceremony but passed away last month.
Jenkins: “He was in the Army Air Force, and his plane was shot down over Germany fairly early in the war and he was a POW. He stayed in the military and retired as a full colonel.
— Pvt. John Kyle Bently, a POW, who was represented by his daughter Sherrie Davis.
Jenkins: “I knew Kyle well. His sister Eunice was in our class along with (Post 21 member Charlie) Freeman, and we graduated Rogersville High School at the same time. I saw the parade when John Kyle Bentley came home, and in later years I was able to help repay him a little bit while I was serving as Commissioner of Conservation. He was hired and retired form the Department of Conservation after many years of service. He was a wonderful human being.”
— Pfc. James E. Begley who was an MIA. His nephew Rick Begley was unable to attend.
— Sgt. Marion Gale Collier, an MIA, who was represented by his brother Ken Collier.
The names of Hawkins County POWs whose family whereabouts are unknown were read aloud: Pvt. Kyle Jones, Pvt. Horace Lee, Pvt. James R. Richards, Pvt. William K. Jones, Pvt. Audley E. Wyatt, Sgt. Frank V. Lee, Pvt. Paul E. Gibson, Pvt. James Potts Jr., Cpl. Dee V. Collier, Pfc. Homer C. Skelton, Pvt. Talmadge C. Burrell, Pvt. Emory Johnson, Pfc. Elidga Housewright, Cpl. J.D. Britton, and Pvt. Ira Shelton Jr.
The names of Hawkins County MIAs whose family whereabouts are unknown were read aloud: Pvt. Robert K. Looney, Pvt. Eugene Walker, Pvt. William L. Sensabaugh, Cpl. Elmer L. Smith, Cpl. D.V. Collier, Pfc. Edgar Edens, Pfc. Horace Woods, Pvt. Chas R. Bledsoe, Pvt. Fred McDonald, Lt. Sherrell Davis, Sgt. Griffeth Fort, Pvt. Sherman Willis, Sgt. J.C. Trent, and Pfc. Vean Cavin.