By: Sandra Thompson
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, only 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive in 2017. As we lose them at an alarming rate, I think it is important that we do not lose their memories. Spotlight Veterans Remembered will hopefully help keep the memory of our local heroes alive.
I would like to “remind” you of a very special man and one of my favorite veterans, SSgt Theo Calvin. Theo was one of the last American Heroes…a man of the Greatest Generation…of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”

Theo came from a time when men did what had to be done and never thought to say “No” to his country or even complain about going to war. Even though SSgt Calvin was only in the Army for 2 years 10 months and 26 days, he was a very busy soldier! As part of General Patton’s 1st Infantry, better known as “The Big Red One,” he was the only veteran in Limestone County who was in 3 major military campaigns.

After induction at Fort McClellan and training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, he found himself on a ship with 9000 other men bound for Africa and the invasion of Sicily. After Sicily was taken, Theo was on his way to England to become part of the Normandy invasion build up, better known as Bloody Omaha on D-day. And as if these two major campaigns weren’t enough, by Thanksgiving, Theo was defending the Elsenborn Ridge during the Battle of the Bulge. Theo often recounted memories of spending Thanksgiving Day in an abandoned German bunker. In addition to these Theo also served in Ardennes, Rhineland, Northern France, Central Europe, Tunisia, and Algeria.

During this time, Theo was wounded twice, the first time was near Avranches during a German air raid. Even though Theo was hit, he didn’t hesitate to render aid to the other wounded; he didn’t even realize he was hit until he felt the blood run down his leg. The second time was during a firefight with the Germans. Their 57mm was no match for the frontal attack against the well-armored tank, and Theo was injured by the gun’s recoil. “But we got the tank!” he said. Theo earned the Purple Heart for both of these injuries.

When VE Day, arrived Theo had enough “points” to be one of the first to demobilize and go home. In fact, it happened so quickly, that Theo was never awarded all of the medals he had earned; these included the Bronze Star, the fourth highest honor that can be bestowed. I will never forget the look on Theo’s face when the Army’s oversight was corrected and he was finally awarded the medal by Lt. General Richard Formica, at our Memorial Day ceremony. Theo said he “felt like a movie star!” That day was one of such emotion that I will never forget it – personally and professionally.

So today let’s pause and think about our veterans who have gone but who are not forgotten. Theo is certainly one of them. His medals and other memorabilia can be seen at the Alabama Veterans Museum…come by and take a look, “Lest we Forget.”
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

By: Sandra Thompson
November 11, 2017, marks the 15th anniversary of the grand opening of the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. Just look how far we have come!

The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives, located in the old L&N Freight Depot in Athens, was the idea of the late Limestone County, Alabama, Veterans Service Officer Kenneth David. Ken collected artifacts for an exhibit in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, but after the exhibit closed, he still had many artifacts left that contributors didn’t retrieve. He wanted a permanent place to display the artifacts to honor the brave men and women from the Civil War to the present who fought and died to keep our land free. The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives opened its doors in 2000 with a few primitive displays and much renovation work still to be done. We had our Grand Opening and Dedication service on Nov. 10, 2002.

The museum is divided into three areas: the Tyler Craig Memorial Library, the Bob McAbee Exhibit Hall, and the Wendell Powers Auditorium, which commemorate the untold hours of volunteer labor these three museum board members gave, and continue to give, to this building. Visitors may tour the more than 5,000 items in our facility at their leisure or enjoy the assistance of our volunteer tour guides. We have heard it commented by visitors who have seen military museums throughout the U.S. that the charm of this museum is that it celebrates the accomplishments and sacrifices of local service persons and their families on the home front.

The Alabama Veterans Museum has become a focal point for veterans’ events, ceremonies, seminars, and meetings, as well as a significant addition to the cultural and historical life of our community. Donations of precious military artifacts are received continually from veterans and their families who wish to see them preserved for future generations, and we consider it an honor to accept them. However, in order to continue to preserve, maintain and grow our facility, we desperately need to expand. Our collection currently contains over 5000 artifacts. Although we rotate our displays, we can still only show a portion of them; an expansion would double our display space.

In addition to school tours, educating future generations is key. Everyone should learn that our freedom is not free… it was bought by men and women, many of whom paid the supreme sacrifice; therefore, our new addition will include two classrooms. We will use these classrooms to teach military history and connect science, technology, education, arts and math (STEAM) to our military. Our expansion will also allow us to host more veterans’ group meetings, commemorative events, and special programs.

We would like to thank the Limestone County Commission, our State Legislators, the City of Athens, and of course the community for their continued outstanding support! Thanks to the County Commission’s actions, it looks like our dream of expansion is finally becoming a reality! I bet you are saying to yourself, “How can I help?” There are many ways to become involved – become a member of the museum (we have several different levels), become a volunteer at the museum, or just come visit us at 100 W. Pryor St. and bring your friends! The museum is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

By: Sandra Thompson
On September 15, the Alabama Veterans Museum once again hosted the POW/MIA Recognition Day event, which included what is known as the “Missing Man Table” ceremony. The speakers were Major Al Nuss, (Ret) and Command Sergeant Major Mike Criscillus, (Ret) and the ceremony was attended by veterans and civilians alike.

The Missing Table Ceremony began not long after the end of the Vietnam War, and is full of symbolism, which is explained below. It grew out of a concern for raising awareness of the plight of Vietnam POWs and MIAs. There is a protocol and an official script for the ceremony, which was developed by the US Navy, but over time the observance has changed, and is not currently governed by the DOD.

There is no designated time of the year to “set the Missing Man table”, and many branches of service use the birth date of their branch, or pause during a military ball to pay honor to their missing brethren. Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day can be used as well to observe “Missing Man.”

The following official description and meaning of the Missing Man Table elements is taken from Wikipedia:

  • Table: set for one, is small, which symbolizes the frailty of one isolated prisoner. The table is usually set close to, or within sight of, the entrance to the dining room. For large events of the Missing Man Table is set for six places: members of the five armed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) and a sixth place setting reminiscent of the civilians who died during service alongside the armed forces or missing during armed conflict. Table is round to represent everlasting concern on the part of the survivors for their missing loved ones.
  • Tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
  • Single red rose in the vase, signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.
  • The red ribbon (yellow ribbon for Air Force ceremonies) represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
  • Slice of lemon on the bread plate: represents the bitter fate of the missing.
  • Salt sprinkled on the bread plate: symbolic of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
  • Inverted glass: represents the fact that the missing and fallen cannot partake.
  • The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God. (The Bible has been removed from several displays at federal facilities due to pressure from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation)
  • Lit candle: reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
  • Empty chair: the missing and fallen aren’t present.

The Museum’s hope is that more citizens of Athens and Limestone County will join us for next year’s ceremony, and we would like to thank Major Nuss, CSM Criscillus, and Colonel Mel McLemore for their help in seeing to it that the fallen are not forgotten.
By Sandra Thompson
Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

By: Sandra Thompson
On Saturday, September 9, over 450 individuals gathered at the Alabama Veterans Museum to honor and remember our heroes of 9/11 at the third annual Travis Manion Foundation 9/11 Heroes Run. Our third annual run was the biggest to date with over 330 runners signed up. We would like to thank race director Whitney Hollingsworth and all of the volunteers who came out to help; we certainly could not do this without everyone working together! Amber Loggins spoke of her brother Adam who was killed in Iraq, and as I looked out into the crowd, it was hard to find a dry eye. Senator Bill Holtzclaw read a very moving letter from the Travis Manion Foundation and asked for a moment of silence to reflect and remember that fateful day and all who were lost.

It is also time to remember another set of individuals, our Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA). The third Friday in September is set aside each year to honor and remember these heroes. According to the Department of Defense, (DOD) there are still over 80,000 individuals unaccounted for from the Vietnam War and past conflicts. The majority are from WWII, with a staggering 73,536. Until 1979, there was no day to honor these heroic individuals. The first “Missing Man Formation” was flown at Langley AFB, Virginia. National POW/MIA Recognition Day legislation was introduced in 1995, and ceremonies are now held throughout the nation. The Missing Man Table and Honor Ceremony is one of them, and this humble ceremony goes as follows:

As you entered the room, you may have noticed a special table; it is reserved to honor our missing men.

Set for six, the empty chairs represent Americans who were or are missing from each of the services – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard – and civilians, all with us in spirit. The table is round – to show our everlasting concern.

The cloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve.

The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans….and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.

The red ribbon symbolizes our continued determination to account for them.

A slice of lemon reminds us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.

The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return – alive or dead.

The Bible represents the strength gained through faith in our country, founded as one nation under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.

The glass is inverted – to symbolize their inability to share a toast.

The chairs are empty – they are missing

Let us now raise our water glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIAs, to the success of our efforts to account for them, and to the safety of all now serving our Nation!

We fly the POW/MIA flag to ensure that as Americans we remember our responsibility to stand behind those who serve our Nation, and do everything possible to account for those who do not return. Lest we forget! Vietnam Veterans of America, Post 511 will hold a Missing Man Ceremony at the Veterans Museum on September 15 at 11:00 a.m. Please join us in honoring and remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

By: Yvonne Dempsey
It is time once again to honor the fallen while challenging the living!

Join us on September 9, 2017 for the 3rd annual 9/11 Heroes Run! Our run is just part of the bigger effort to unite communities internationally with one goal – to never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of September 11th and in the wars since: veterans, first responders, civilians, and military forces.

A large portion of the funds raised through the 9/11 Heroes Run are invested back into the race communities to support local veterans, first responders, troops and military families. The remaining proceeds support the Travis Manion Foundation; from the previous two races over $4,500 was donated back to the Veterans Museum for various programs.

Many have asked “Where does the rest of the money go, and what does the Travis Manion Foundation do with it?” From the Travis Manion Foundation website, here is where “the rest of the money goes!” The mission of the Travis Manion Foundation is to “empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations. In 2007, 1stLt Travis Manion (USMC) was killed in Iraq while saving his wounded teammates. Today, Travis’ legacy lives on in the words he spoke before leaving for his final deployment, ‘If Not Me, Then Who…’ Guided by this mantra, veterans continue their service, develop strong relationships with their communities, and thrive in their post-military lives. As a result, communities prosper and the character of our nation’s heroes live on in the next generation.”

As reported, over 90% of the proceeds donated back to the foundation goes to Program Services including Veteran Transition Workshops, which aid service members in leveraging their strengths, passions, and skills to thrive personally and professionally in their post-military lives. It also supports the “Character Does Matter Program” presented by Johnson & Johnson, which engages veterans and families of fallen heroes to inspire young adults to live with character, develop their leadership skills, and activate them to serve their communities in honor of fallen heroes. To date, over 200,000 young adults have been inspired to live with character and serve their community; over 60,000 veterans and survivors have been supported by the program. There are now more than 55 annual 9/11 Heroes Runs at different locations across the country and the world, and over 4,000 volunteers have been activated to support these programs!

Our run, which begins and ends at the Alabama Veterans Museum, will start at 7:00 a.m. Amber Godwin Loggins (sister of our fallen hero Lance Corporal Adam Loggins) will speak at the opening ceremony. Please help us get the word out about the race. For more information, contact the museum or Whitney Hollingsworth at 256-651-7507. For information about pricing and signup deadlines or to register visit http://www.travismanion.org/?post_type=tmf_911run_race&p=5479#.

A pancake breakfast will be held at the museum on August 19, 2017 from 8:00- 10:00 a.m. to help raise money to support the race. Pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee for the low price of just $5.00! Come on out and support both of these events. The museum is located at 100 W. Pryor St. in Athens, AL.
By: Yvonne Dempsey
Limestone Veterans Burial Detail member and Alabama Veterans Museum volunteer

By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum
It has been said that one of the hardest jobs in the military is that of the military spouse! These are the individuals that are often left behind to keep the home fires burning while their spouses are serving their country, either on a daily basis or in times of war and deployment. In many cases the spouse is the only thing that keeps them going even in the most unbearable conditions. Most spouses do this while also coping with the pressures and stressors of their own job and while often raising a family. Today I would like to say “Thank You” to our many outstanding military spouses and introduce you to one right here at home. It is with pleasure that we welcome Rhonda McMullins to our Veterans Museum family. Rhonda was born in Athens and was raised in Capshaw, AL.

After joining the Air Force (AF) in 1974, her husband Danny spent 20 years serving in Inventory Management and the Computer Programming field. Sometimes Rhonda and her children were lucky enough to accompany him on various training and assignments, but most of the time they stayed at home and anxiously awaited his return. They had a wide variety of assignments including Columbus AFB, MS; Mildenhall AFB, RAF UK; Charleston AFB, S.C.; and Elmendorf AFB, AK.

While keeping the home fires burning, Rhonda also worked for the Air Force. She started out in the staffing department, and during the course of 14 years she was promoted through the training and job classification sections of Human Resources. She worked with civilian and military supervisors to make sure that training and job requirements were met for mission accomplishment at Elmendorf AFB. One year she was responsible for job audits and classification for Eielson AFB in Fairbanks. During this time Rhonda travelled monthly via military plane to achieve on-site job audits and establish a good understanding of their mission and their issues of isolation. One of her most memorable moments of that assignment was during a winter visit when she stepped out of the plane and was met with -48? Fahrenheit! “I thought my lungs were going to freeze during the short walk to the terminal! I was used to extreme weather in Anchorage but nothing could have prepared me for that. Then to finish me off, when I arrived at my billeting that evening the heat was on the blink; it was 50? in my room. When I called down to complain they asked me if I needed an extra blanket! Oh well, you know the saying that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger!”
Rhonda and her husband Danny have always been very patriotic. She says she had a wonderful example of volunteering and serving my fellow man from her mother. “It was woven into my life at an early age; so it was a natural progression to start our married life together serving our country.”

After the couple retired from the Air Force in 1994, they were called into a totally different type of service…the ministry. “We continued in the service of ministry for 20 years here in the North Alabama area. We also had the opportunity to go to foreign countries as temporary missionaries. If you have not had this blessing/self-check experience, I would highly recommend it. This is indeed the most wonderfully blessed nation in the world, and we have God and our military members to thank for this liberated, blessed and rich life that we have.”

Rhonda joined the volunteer staff at the museum in the spring of 2016. One of the reasons Rhonda chose to volunteer at the Veterans Museum was because of her cousin Command Sgt Major (CSM) Billy Duncan and his devotion to the military. “He was instrumental in the operations of the museum, and I had always looked up to him and admired his commitment to serving our country. I wanted to carry on our family legacy in whatever small way that I could.”

Rhonda and her husband Danny have just celebrated 45 years of marriage. They have two beautiful children, Chris and Jaime, and they have been blessed with 12 grandchildren! “Did I mention that they are all very smart, loving and beautiful! I have to say it’s a wonderful and full life!”
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

An Exhibit Honoring the Service and Heroism of U. S. Military Chaplains In World Wars I & II

We have a very special display coming to the museum that honors a part of the military that is overlooked by many, but plays an important role in the lives of our service members. The exhibit, “Faith and Courage,” recognizes the contributions of U.S. Military Chaplains. According to the Department of Defense, the purpose of chaplains is to “accommodate religious needs, to provide religious and pastoral care, and to advise commanders on the complexities of religion with regard to its personnel and mission, as appropriate. As military members, chaplains are uniquely positioned to assist Service members, their families, and other authorized personnel with the challenges of military service as advocates of religious, moral, and spiritual well being and resiliency.”

In the words of President Harry S. Truman, “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” This exhibit honors these exceptional individuals and attempts to extend the value of their service and sacrifice by keeping their memories alive as an example for later generations.

This presentation of stories of Chaplain Heroism includes text and photographs from World Wars I & II. Much of the information was collected with the help of the Army Chaplain Museum and the Navy Chaplain Archives, and artifacts were collected from all over the world.

“Faith and Courage,” the exhibit at Washington National Cathedral for the 2004 opening of the World War II Memorial, was an expansion of the WWII section of this exhibit. The opening service for the dedication of the memorial was held at the cathedral with the chiefs of all the U. S. Military Chaplain Corps in attendance. The exhibit has received awards and recognition from the Tennessee Association of Museums, the Army Chaplain Corps, and Navy Chaplain Corps Chiefs of Chaplains.

“Faith and Courage” has also been featured at the Celebrate Freedom Festival in Pigeon Forge, TN; the American Museum of Science & Energy in Oak Ridge, TN; the Army Chaplain Corps at Fort Bragg, NC; the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge, TN; the 35th Anniversary Salute to Veterans at the Parthenon in Nashville, TN; and many other public venues. The exhibit is based at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville. “Faith and Courage” was developed and designed by Tom Walker, former exhibit designer for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, TN.

I asked Tom why it was important to have a display on chaplains and he replied, “I’ve been involved in the design & development of all kinds of exhibits for nearly 30 years, including science, art, culture, history, military, and kids’ exhibits. I had never really thought about military chaplains until I was sitting in church one morning in September of 2000. The idea hit me out of the blue, like a ton of bricks. By the end of the service I knew what needed to be done.

“The experience of developing ‘Faith and Courage’ over the years has been full of things that could only be described as miracles. Apparently the man upstairs wanted a chaplain exhibit and paved the way for it to happen time after time — things happened against astronomical odds and couldn’t reasonably be explained away as coincidence. You could say that I’m only following orders from the top. I should probably record the details of some of these events at some point — they truly are astounding.” Perhaps Tom will share some of these astounding details while he is here. “Faith and Courage” will be on display until approximately July 31; so please don’t miss out on this wonderful display.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum

It is with great pleasure that I announce our guest speaker for this year’s Memorial Day program will be Major General James E. Simpson, Commanding General, U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL.

Gen. Simpson assumed command on Aug. 19, 2015. ACC, a subordinate command of Army Materiel Command, is comprised of two subordinate commands—the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command and the U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command—and six major contracting centers. ACC provides global contracting support to war fighters engaged in military operations, weapon system acquisition, life cycle management and sustainment, and acquisition of goods and services vital to the soldier’s mission and well-being. Its workforce includes more than 6,000 military and civilian personnel at more than 100 locations worldwide.

General Simpson was commissioned in 1985 after graduating from Lander University in Greenwood, SC, as an ROTC distinguished military graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He has a master’s in Public Administration from Central Michigan University and a master’s in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He also earned a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington, a certificate in Management from the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia; and a master’s certificate in Government Contract Management from George Washington University. His military education includes the Air Defense Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Combined Arms Services Staff School, Training with Industry, Command and General Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Gen. Simpson is Level III certified in contracting and Level II certified in program management. Prior to assuming command of ACC, he was the Director of Contracting and the Deputy to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement.

General Simpson’s command and staff assignments include: Commander, U.S. Central Command Joint Theater Support Contracting Command, Afghanistan; Deputy Chief of Contracting Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC; Senior Contracting Official-Iraq, Joint Theater Support Contracting Command, CENTCOM, Operation New Dawn, Iraq; Chief of Staff, ACC, Fort Belvoir, VA; Commander, Contracting Center of Excellence, AMC, Alexandria, VA; Executive Officer, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Policy and Procurement), Pentagon; Deputy Project Manager, Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, Falls Church, VA; Commander, Defense Contract Management Agency, Central Pennsylvania, York, PA and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq; Assignment Officer, Army Acquisition Corps, U.S. Total Army Personnel Command, Alexandria; Chief, Osan Contracting Branch, ACC Korea, 8th U.S Army, Korea; Contingency Contracting Officer, 101st Support Group (Corps), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY; Commander, A Battery, 2d Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.

His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (3 OLC), Bronze Star (1 OLC), Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2 OLC), Meritorious Service Medal (3 OLC), Army Commendation Medal (1 OLC), Army Achievement Medal (5 OLC), the Parachute and Air Assault Badges, and the Army Staff Identification Badge. Additionally, he was awarded the Secretary of the Army Excellence in Contracting Award for Outstanding Contracting Officer (Military) at Installation-Level Satellite for fiscal year 1999. In fiscal year 2006 he received the Acquisition Commander of the Year Award at the Lieutenant Colonel level.

Our program will be held on Monday, May 29 at 11:00 a.m. at the Limestone County Event Center, across from the museum at 100 W. Pryor St., Athens, AL. Please join us for refreshments following the program.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veteran’s Museum

Many of you are familiar with funerals featuring military honors,but you may not know why it is done, who is eligible for these honors, how to request this service, who provides this service, how much it costs, and what the ceremony entails.

The Department of Defense defines military funeral honors as “the ceremonial paying of respect and the final demonstration of the country’s gratitude tothose who, in times of war and peace, have faithfully defended our Nation.”

Deceased veterans who are eligible for military honors include:

• Military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve.
• Former military members who served on active duty and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
• Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
• Former military members discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

Honors are not performed automatically; families ofeligible veterans mustrequest funeral honors through their funeral director, who will contact the appropriate organization.The family must produce the veteran’s DD214 or similar separation/discharge document proving that the veteran is eligible for the honor. Because funerals are stressful for families, if you are a veteran and plan on receiving a military burial, please inform your spouse, children, or other survivors of your intentions. Have your documentation ready in advance and in a safe, easily-accessible place.

In our area, military funeral honors are provided by the Limestone Veterans Burial Detail. This service is provided by the detail free of charge to the families of eligible veterans.Local funeral homes will contact the detail after receiving proof of eligibility and request for the service. The burial detail will typically travel to funerals within a 100-mile radius of Limestone County.

The military ceremony traditionallyincludes – three volleys of shots fired in honor of the deceased veteran, the playing of Taps, andthe folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin. Each part of the ceremony is reminiscent of military customs and rituals.

The firing of three volleys comes from traditional battle ceasefires where each side would take time to clear the dead from the battlefield. The shots indicated that the dead were cleared and properly cared for.This began the custom of firing three volleys over the grave of fallen comrades.

The playing of Taps originally was composed for the military to signal “lights out” at day’s end. The somber tune became a tradition at military funerals to honor the extinguishing of a life.

The American flag is draped over the closed casket with the blue field of stars over the left shoulder. At the proper moment, the flag is removed, then folded with 13 folds until it is the shape of a triangle with only the field of blue showing, and then respectfully handed to the next of kin.

The Limestone Veterans Burial Detailwas formed in the 1990s and has provided services for thousands of local veterans since then. There are times when the group has had a funeral a day for a week, other times two or three a day,or periods of a week or two with no funerals.

Usually, eleven members are needed for a funeral. Over the years, members have moved away, become physically incapacitated, or, sadly, passed away. New members are welcomed to join. You do not have to be a veteran, just a patriotic American who is physically able to perform the necessary duties, has the time to commit, and is willing to serve when called.

While there is no charge for burial detail services, the group does have expenses which are only paid for by your tax-free donations. Some expenses include the purchase of uniforms, weapons upkeep, ammunition, and travel. Anyone may make a tax-free donation to the burial detailby depositing into their account at Regions Bank or by check to Limestone Veterans Burial Detail, 18188 Mooresville Rd., Athens, AL 35613.

Despite the searing heat of summer, the biting cold of winter, or the deluge of a rainstorm, the members of the Limestone Veterans Burial Detail are there to honor those who bravely served our country and proudly pay their respect to those heroes and their families.
By: Yvonne Dempsey
Limestone Veterans Burial Detail member and Alabama Veterans Museum volunteer

March is celebrated as National Women’s History Month in thousands of communities and military bases throughout the world. This celebration, designated by joint resolutions of the House and Senate and proclamations by six American presidents, is an opportunity to honor and celebrate women’s historic achievements. The stories of women’s achievements are integral to the fabric of our history. Learning about women’s tenacity, courage, and creativity throughout the centuries is a tremendous source of strength. Knowing women’s stories provides essential role models for everyone. And role models are genuinely needed to face the extraordinary changes and unrelenting challenges of the 21st century.

As the country celebrates nationally, locally we will be celebrating our female veterans. The 2017 theme for National Women’s History Month – “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business” – honors women who have successfully challenged the role of women in both business and the paid labor force. Women have always worked, but often their work has been undervalued and unpaid. I can think of no one more deserving to be recognized for her service in both the United States Army Reserve and also in the civilian sector than Major General Paulette Risher!

Paulette Risher is twice retired, once as an Organizational Psychologist with the United States Air Force Research Laboratory and once as a Major General (2-Star) in the United States Army Reserve. With 34 years of active and reserve service, Paulette was the first woman to command an Army Special Operations unit as a flag-officer. When she returned to active duty in 2002, she served as the President of the Joint Special Operations University. Upon leaving active duty, Paulette joined Booz Allen Hamilton and led their Organization, Strategy, and Learning team in Huntsville for three years. Additionally, Paulette served as the Principal Director for Huntsville Operations for DigiFlight, Inc.

Today, Paulette serves as the Program Director for Veteran Employment Services with Still Serving Veterans (SSV), a Huntsville-based non-profit dedicated to helping Veterans and their families successfully transition and integrate into the community and civilian work. Paulette’s primary focus is on assisting veterans in finding meaningful work and assisting employers in welcoming and retaining veterans as valued members of their workforce. Paulette also manages a generous grant from the Call of Duty Endowment.

Paulette holds Master’s Degrees in Psychology and Education. She is also a certified web designer and True Colors Facilitator/Trainer. Paulette is a member of the Women’s Economic Development Council (WEDC), the Association of the United States Army, the Association for Talent Development, the National Career Development Association, and the National Defense Industrial Association. She is also a member of Women in Defense and was awarded their national 2015 Service to the Flag Award. Paulette serves as the Employment Committee Co-Chair of the Alabama Veterans Network (AlaVetNet), a Governor’s Commission challenged with building public-private partnerships to meet the needs of Alabama’s large veteran population. She also serves on the Alabama Small Business Advisory Commission and is an alumna of Leadership Huntsville
By: Sandra Thompson – Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum