By Cody Thompson
GRAPELAND – May is National Military Appreciation Month, a time set aside to honor, remember and recognize the men and women who have served in the military in the past, as well as those who are now serving.
It’s no surprise to see why May was chosen to be National Military Appreciation Month, as it plays host to several military holidays and events: Loyalty Day on May 1, Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 12, Armed Forces Day on May 20, Memorial Day on May 29 and even Victory Day in Europe on May 8.
“The solder is the army. No army is better than its soldiers,” World War II general George S. Patton, Jr. once said. “The solder is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”
Several veterans from a variety of backgrounds call Houston County their home. One such veteran is Frank Thompson, of Lovelady.
Thompson enlisted in the Army in 1950 at the age of 17 and served until 1953. During his time in the Korean War, Thompson received a the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star.
“The military, to me, means security. I think a well-equipped and well-trained military is the best defense a country can have,” Thompson told the Messenger.
Thompson, 88, stated that he is proud of his military and hopes that the men and women currently in the armed forces take pride in their service as well.
“I was grateful to be able to serve and make it home safely and I hope the same for everyone serving now,” Thompson said. “Most of all, I am proud of my time in the military and so should everyone that has served or is serving now.”
Grapeland resident, Bob Jones, enlisted as a petty officer in the Navy from 1962-1970, during the Vietnam War.
“I got drafted in 1962 but I didn’t want to go to the Army, so I decided to enlist in the Navy,” Jones told the Messenger. “I never saw active combat, but I enjoyed my time in the Navy and am glad that I was able to serve my country. I felt that I needed to serve my country.”
While in the Navy, Jones took classes in computer operations. After eight years of service, Jones left the Navy and, in 1970, settled in Grapeland with his wife and kids.
“When I came to Grapeland, I started working at the Vulcraft,” Jones said. “They had this big computer and I was the only one that knew how to operate it because of my training in the Navy.”
Jones stated that, despite having never seen active combat, he greatly respects those that have and still do.
“I feel for and respect the men and women that put themselves in harms way each day for our country,” Jones said. “I may not have been in the field during Vietnam, but I knew people that were and I knew some that didn’t make it back.”
Harry Pridgen, of Grapeland, was drafted into the Army in 1958 and served until 1960. Although he never saw combat, Pridgen holds the men and women that have fought and died with the upmost respect.
“I’m no hero, I was fortunate enough to have never seen combat,” Pridgen told the Messenger. “But I’ve known several people who have seen combat and have told me the stories about the friends they’ve lost. Those are the real heroes.”
Jonathan Davidson, of Lovelady, was a sergeant in the Marines and served from 2000-2004. He was deployed to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
“I enlisted not long before the 9/11 attacks,” Davidson told the Messenger. “It was an honor to be able to serve my country during such a dark time in our history. It helped shape me into the man I am today.”
Davidson stated that those serving in the military today need to hold their heads up and be proud of the work that they are doing.
“The common saying in the Marines is, ‘Semper fidelis,” which means, “Always faithful,” Davidson said. “I know that military life can be difficult at times, but for those serving today, keep your heads up and stay faithful to your country and your duties as a soldier.”
Cody Thompson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.