By Debbie Hall
The sacrifices and service of local veterans was honored and celebrated Monday during the 27th annual Veterans Day Program.
Held at the HJDB Event center in Bassett, the event recognized all service members, and coincided with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, “the war that was to have ended all wars,” said W. C. Fowlkes, who represents veteran service organizations in Martinsville-Henry County.
“It’s a very commemorative date in our history. It also the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, and the 100th year anniversary of the Pannill Chapter in Martinsville-Henry County,” he added.
Fowlkes recognized Jim Adams, of the Blackberry District and chairman of the Henry County Board of Supervisors and Debra Buchanan, of the Horsepasture District and vice-chairman; Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson, other local officials and John McCain, a WWII veteran.
Adams, Buchanan and Lawson presented the Outstanding Veteran Award to Charles Washburn because he was judged “by the selection committee to best represent what service to our country and the community means,” Adams said.
The award was created in 2009 by the Henry County Board of Supervisors, and with support from Martinsville City Council, was expanded in 2013 to include nominations of both city and county veterans, Adams said.
Washburn began training in the Marine Corps in 1972. “During his 21 years in the military, he was stationed at various bases in North Carolina, California and Japan” and held positions that included clerk and airfreight operations manager, Lawson said.
During his tenure, he received several commendations, including the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, meritorious Unit Commendation with two stars, the Navy Accolade with one star, sea service deployment ribbon, rifle and handgun marksmanship badges and overseas service ribbon, she said.
In addition to serving the community in various military organizations, Washburn also serves on the Children and Youth Committee for the American Legion Boy State Council, helps transport disabled veterans to medical appointments and serves with the Martinsville-Henry County Honor Guard, according to Lawson and Buchanan.
He also is active in his church, Rich Acres Christian Church, and volunteers at Rich Acres Elementary School, “but there is one project that is near and dear to his heart,” Buchanan said, and added that Washburn “has dedicated countless hours to show love to children at Christmas time by his involvement and leadership with” the Martine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.
S.T. Fulcher presented the Veteran of the Year Award to Leonard Boyce, who served in the Air Force. Boyce was the 28th recipient of the award that is given by the Veterans Service Organizations.
After graduating from Gretna High School in 1961, Boyce then enlisted in the military. He completed basic training in 1962 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and then served as air policeman at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.
He was reassigned in 1963 from his policeman’s post to Incirlik Air Force Base in Izmir, Turkey. He remained there four months, until returning to Scott Air Force Base, where he supervised the patrol and traffic division. Boyce then spent several years at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, where he was honorably discharged in 1968.
Lt. Col. Ray Ferguson introduced the guest speaker, retired Gen. Dennis Via.
Less than 1 percent of the nation serves in the military, Via said, and thanked those in attendance for honoring the 1 percent.
“Each November, the American people set aside Veterans Day to honor all who have served our country in uniform, in quiet tributes and grand parades, in community centers and war memorials,” Via said. “Americans of all backgrounds come together across the nation on November 11th to celebrate the men and women who fought to keep our country strong and free.”
Via, a native of the Preston community, was a 1976 graduate of the former George Washington Carver High School in Fieldale. He attended Virginia State University in Petersburg, where he graduated in May 1980 as a Distinguished Military Graduate, and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
Via began his career with the 35th Signal Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C. During his 32-year Army career, his principal assignments have included Commanding General, CECOM Life Cycle Management Command and Fort Monmouth, NJ.; Commanding General, 5th Signal Command, and U.S. Army Europe & Seventh Army (USAREUR) Chief Information Officer/Assistant Chief of Staff, G6 (CIO/G6); Director, Global Operations, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations (USSTRATCOM); Commander, 3rd Signal Brigade and III Corps Assistant Chief of Staff, G6; Commander, 82nd Signal Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division; Division Chief, Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Army G8, Headquarters, Department of the Army; and Director for Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, J-6, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.
Via was elevated to the rank of four-star General on Aug. 7, 2012, and assumed duties as the 18th Commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
The Presentation of Colors was by the JROTC of Bassett High School, the National Anthem was performed by the U.S. Army National Guard 29th Infantry Band.
Several other organizations also supported the event, including AMVETS, DAV Chapter 52, Homer Dillard Post #78, Marine Corps League, Martinsville-Henry County honor Guard, Pannill Post #42, Ford-Stewart VFW Post 4637, VFW Post 10840 and Wright Funeral Service.
A wreath laying ceremony was held in Martinsville Monday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and honor veterans George Edward Pannill (1896-1918) and Jeb Stuart Pannill (1897-1918). Both served in WWI as volunteers with Co. K. 9th Infantry, 2nd Division AEF, according to Danny Turner, a member of Martinsville City Council.
George Pannill was killed in action on July 18, 1918 in Vierzy, France.
Stuart Pannill was injured in the same conflict. He died about three weeks later, on Aug. 5, 1918 in a Paris hospital.
Former U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. was among the speakers at the event, along with State Sen. Bill Stanley, Bishop Joe Gravely, Jr., Lucy Wilson and Fowlkes. Students from Carlisle School also participated in the event.