Greene County Tech High School marked its 50th year to hold its Veterans Day program last week by inducting three into its Veterans Hall of Fame.
They included Troy Rimmer, a 99-year-old Army veteran of the Second World War. Rimmer served in a signals unit from 1942-45 in the Pacific Theater of Operations. He saw action in New Guinea as well as the Philippine Islands. While there, Rimmer participated in the invasions of Leyte – which triggered the greatest naval battle in history – and Luzon. And when Japan surrendered in August 1945, he was part of the army of occupation until his discharge that November.
“I do remember Leyte,” he was quoted as telling Erik Wright, who nominated him for the award. “I remember there being fog screens dropped for us, and that we were pinned down by the Japanese fire on the beaches.” Rimmer said his job was to lay communications wire directly behind the attacking troops. “It was an awful time,” he said, “but you know, I was never scared.”
Also inducted was David Specking, Army veteran of Grenada (1983) and Iraq (2003-04). During his 22 years of service, Specking was a combat engineer, an infantryman, a medical specialist and a food service specialist. “I got blown up three times over in Iraq,” he said in a video played before he received the award. Wounded badly enough to require evacuation to a military hospital in Germany after the third time, Specking said the hardest part of the injury was having to leave his comrades back in-country. “The hardest part of getting the Purple Heart is leaving your guys behind,” he said.
Along those lines, Specking said, the hardest part of war is losing friends.
Nonetheless, he said he enjoyed his military service. Specking said he’d done all he could to make his country “a little bit better, and a whole lot safer.”
The third inductee was Clarence Prince, a veteran of the Vietnam War (1967-68) with a total of 31 years service in the Army and Army Reserve. In Vietnam, he said, his mission was to lead search-and-destroy missions in the countryside, looking for contraband (weapons, ammunition, supplies, etc.) that the enemy Viet Cong could use. “I was in the Army for several years before going to Vietnam,” he said, “so I have a different view of it [from] what the civilian person was presented at the time.”
Prince, who fought against the enemy during the 1968 Tet Offensive, said he thought the United States was supposed to be in Vietnam. “I was told by my superiors that we were there because the South Vietnamese government wanted us to be there,” he said, “and that the majority of the South Vietnamese people wanted us there also. I thought that we were there to try to stop the Viet Cong from committing atrocities against those people – atrocities which I witnessed.”
Prince added that the victory of the Communists in 1975 had not improved the lot of the people, who he noted were leaving the country by any means possible.
Featured speaker at the event was U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), himself an Army veteran. He noted his family has had a long tradition of military service, from his father and uncles in Vietnam and Korea, to his grandfather in World War II, his grandfather in World War I and his great-grandfather in the Civil War. “I won’t say which side he was on,” Crawford quipped, “but he wore a gray uniform.”
Crawford said that he was delighted to be invited to the 50th celebration of Veterans Day at Greene County Tech. “Greene County Tech is a very patriotic school,” he said.
Crawford noted that, despite many who served in non-combat positions – like his grandfather, who cooked meals for German prisoners of war – everyone who served, served the country. “Value the service and the contribution that everyone makes,” he said.
The program included veterans of various wars and branches of service standing to be recognized. And Crawford mentioned those who had served in more than one branch. “It speaks to their level of commitment,” he said, “of people that are willing to serve – they don’t ask why, they don’t ask where.”
Crawford said that the commemoration of Veterans Day should not be a somber event. “This is a day to celebrate the service, and the servants that we have among us,” he said. “And there are very few.”
Crawford noted that some who joined the military had not even finished high school. “They joined because their country needed them,” he said.
Crawford also recognized the veterans of the Cold War, which featured hostilities that stopped short of combat between the the United States and its NATO allies, and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. “Even during the Cold War,” he said, “things could get pretty hot.”