Lancaster County recognized its local Vietnam veterans Saturday on the front lawn of the historic county courthouse with a long overdue “Welcome Home” celebration.
“Let’s do what should’ve been done 50 years ago,” said Robin Ghent, Lancaster County veterans affairs director. “You did your job, you served with honor, and you did us proud. Welcome home.”
When they returned home from Southeast Asia in the 1960s and ’70s, veterans were sometimes spit at, cursed out, degraded or ignored for their service.
Aaron Flynn took his last pain-free steps on a secluded path near Worms, Germany, on the afternoon of Feb. 21, 1945.
He was a 19-year-old private first class from Lancaster, a machine gunner with the U.S. Army’s 6th Armored Division, 44th Armored Infantry Battalion.
Flynn had been a late entry into World War II. His enlistment was rejected several times because of bad eyesight. But after his older brother was killed in action on Christmas Eve 1943, Flynn got into the Army.
After months of covering a remote Afghan outpost, journalist Sebastian Junger said the only thing that makes battle psychologically tolerable for soldiers is their brotherhood.
To a group of veterans in Indian Land, that camaraderie plays just as important a role here at home.
For the members of Tuesday Heroes, it all begins with “coffee and bull” at the CrossRidge Café in Indian Land.
Johnnie Wright walked to Charlotte from his family’s Lancaster farm in August 1940 to join the Army. He was 19 years old, had one dime in his pocket and two buddies with not a cent in theirs.
The 5-foot-10 Wright weighed 137 pounds and was dressed in his Sunday suit, the only clothes he had that weren’t overalls.
“I spent my dime to buy pencils to fill out the papers,” he said. “So then all three of us were flat broke.”
The three men served during World War II. Two made it home alive.
At age 21, Heath Springs native Quay Powers says he was “scared to death” fighting his way up Old Baldy Hill during the Korean War.
Powers was drafted into the Army in Oct. 1951 and served in the 2nd Infantry Division, Company F.
Their first task was to relieve another company from Old Baldy so that company could go back to the reserve.
“Old Baldy was a special hill because of the vision you had out front, and that’s why it was important,” Powers said. “It gave you a good viewpoint if the enemy did attack.”
The picture of six men in military uniforms titled “Griffin Brothers Return from War” posted on social media caught my attention. Three of the faces were familiar.
Two of them, Carl and Raymond, lived nearby and I had known them for most of my life. Everette was quite often a visitor to a local grill, where, at times, he played his guitar and sang. He was extraordinarily talented in other ways as well. I was curious about the others and also wanted to know as much detail as was possible about each one.