John Redd of Spencer was named Veteran of the Year at the May 27 Memorial Day Service at Carver Memorial Gardens.
Redd, 94, a native of Spencer, was in the Army from 1944 to 1946. He served in the Pacific and was on Okinawa Island when the war ended, he said after the Memorial Day program.
After his discharge from the service, he returned to his hometown and worked at DuPont for 38 years before retiring in 1985. He and his late wife, Odatta Redd, had three daughters.
Although his military service ended in 1946, his service to veterans lasted far longer, according to 1st Sgt. Bobby W. Jankowy, who was the keynote speaker at the Carver program.
He noted that Redd had served more than 59 years with numerous veterans organizations and posts, the honor guard, Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) and other groups. In particular, Redd said later, he was past commander of American Legion Post 78 and also a member of VFW Post 4637.
Redd is the “go-to guy for all things veterans,” Jankowy said.
Redd said he was surprised by the honor. He asked the more than 60 people attending the program to pray, and he thanked God for all the people who served and sacrificed for their country. He also prayed that the people left behind the fallen service men and women would find comfort.
After the program, Redd was asked what advice he would give young people considering entering the military. “My only advice to young people is whatever you do, do your best,” he responded.
Jankoway was introduced to the audience by Chauncey Callaway, who served under him in the Army. “He was the epitome of a first sergeant,” Callaway said, adding that Jankoway showed good leadership, providing those serving under him with the tools and knowledge they needed to succeed.
As a result, the Army became “fun and enjoyable again, said Callaway, who ended up serving 10 more years, for a total of 28, in the Army.
Jankowy was born in Hawaii and served 25 years in the Army as a drill sergeant, platoon sergeant and first sergeant. He served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and has a long list of training, education and medals.
“I didn’t do near what the people here did,” he said after his introduction, referring to the flag-marked graves of veterans at Carver Memorial Gardens.
The American experience is unique since the enemy rarely has been on U.S. soil or at its gate, he said. So Americans do not live in fear, and they should thank the military for that, he added.
Volunteering for the military is a “brave, selfless act” by people who know the risks and accept them, Jankowy said. But the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C. are a visual reminder of the cost of war, he said, and told the stories of some of those fallen veterans.
Each veteran returning home is unique, he said. Some work to overcome an injury. Others start a new career or obtain a college degree. Others are there for the families they have been separated from while deployed, he said.
Regardless of their challenges, all veterans deserve the right tools and support to succeed, Jankoway said, and he urged those present to reach out to them, offer to help and believe. With that, he played a recording of the song “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn that includes the phrase, “I believe there is more to this (life) than what I can see.”
“Amen,” several people in the audience said when the song finished.
Commander Sonny Richardson echoed Jankowy’s appeal in his closing remarks. He asked those present at the program to support veterans groups and programs not only on Memorial Day and Veterans Day but throughout the year. He also recognized members of the Veterans Service Organization (VSO).
The Martinsville-Henry County Veterans Honor Guard performed a three-volley gun salute. Magna Vista High School JROTC students posted the colors and later lowered the flag; Decateur Maqell Davis sang the Star Spangled Banner; and Cameron Callaway, son of Chauncey Callaway, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
David Gillian gave the invocational prayer and the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Davis said the benediction.