By Brandon Martin
City Officials that included Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson and Danny Turner, a council member, attended a Victory in Japan (V-J) Day ceremony on Sept. 2, to honor World War II Veteran Buck Powell.
The crowd gathered near a backdrop of patriotic streamers and balloons on Barrows Mill Road listened intently as Lawson explained that V-J Day is one of the few days to be celebrated twice a year.
The Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, but due to time zone differences, then President Harry Truman broadcast the event in the U.S. on August 14, 1945.
During the broadcast, Truman said that the “proclamation of V-J Day must wait upon the formal signing of the surrender terms by Japan.”
The signing to officially mark the end of WWII took place on Sept. 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri, according to Lawson, who recognized September 2, 2020 “as the 75th anniversary of the official ending of World War II.
“We especially recognize long-time community resident Army 97th Infantry Division 303 Infantry Regiment Buck Powell as a WWII veteran and offer our sincere thanks for his contributions,” Lawson said. “This is an honor for me to be here.” Powell “is very dear to me. It’s a special day. He is a special guy, and I’m thankful to be able to call him my friend.”
“This is a special day. As we have in the past, we try to honor all the World War II veterans in the City of Martinsville. We did the last (ceremony) three weeks ago,” Turner said of an Aug. 15 ceremony.
Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, Griffith, R-Salem, also attended the ceremony.
“It is a fact that that generation was ‘The Greatest Generation’” Griffith said. “They were raised during the (Great) Depression and then they had to face an attack both on our values and on our nation. The Japanese attacked us directly by bombing Pearl Harbor and we celebrate, today, the 75th Anniversary of their actual surrender.”
While Japan provoked war through attack, Griffith said that Nazi Germany had attacked the values “that this country holds dear.”
When Powell joined the fight, he was assigned to protect America’s values in the European Theatre of the war, Griffith said.
“In the final months of the European war, you, and the men of the 303rd Infantry Division 97 Division helped drive the conflict to its conclusion,” Griffith said to Powell. “Your receipt of the Bronze Star indicates the courage and dedication required of our sailors, soldiers and airmen to achieve the final victory.
“May you always know that our nation will be fully indebted to you. I know the City of Martinsville is proud to have you as part of their community and I am proud to represent you as a member of Congress,” Griffith said. He also brought a flag that was presented to Powell.
Commander Thomas Spencer and Deputy Commander Leonard Boyce, of the Veterans Honor Guard of Martinsville/Henry County, folded and presented the national ensign after Mary Helen Cameron performed the National Anthem.
Members of Powell’s family also spoke at the ceremony to convey their gratitude and pride in his service.
“Daddy has always been our hero,” said Skeeter Joyce, one of Powell’s four daughters. “We love you Daddy, and we are so proud of what you have done so that everybody can be here to tell you thank you.”
Alice Cox, Powell’s youngest daughter, also praised her father.
“You are wonderful, and we are so proud of you. You are very humble,” Cox said. “You’re the best grandpa or daddy that anybody could ask for.”
Grandson Will Joyce said “I just wanted to say how proud our family is of Buck, my grandfather, for all of the things he has done for us, the family and the country. He is truly a hero. I know he doesn’t like to hear that word, but he is.”
Powell said that he fought in the “Battle of the Bulge,” north of the Rhine River and in Germany. After the fighting had ceased, Powell said that he eventually made his way to Japan.
For a man who fought for America’s values in one half of the second World War, it was a fitting that he was recognized on the official day of surrender for the second half of WWII, officials said.
After the ceremony, Powell used only one word to sum up his feelings. He said he is “grateful.”
Further evidence, that, as Griffith said, Powell and his brethren truly were “The Greatest Generation.”