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Cana/Pino: Remembering community veterans

By Betty West

Cana/Pino Correspondent

The recent recognition of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II caused me to once again recall the way the people of Cana lived and reacted during that war. I was not a part of the Pino community during World War II, but I heard the heroes of that war tell their stories after I moved here in 1955. It seems appropriate to repeat some of those stories as we remember World War II, and as we recognize and thank all of our veterans for their service on Veterans Day in November.

John Gaither Ward and L. Gene Miller joined the U.S. Army at the beginning of the war and were in the thick of the fighting in Europe. Gene talked about being in fox holes with bullets flying all around him. He managed to survive. Gene said that the fact he was able to live and to see the Statue of Liberty when the ship sailed into New York Harbor was all the thanks that he ever needed for his service. Gene just wanted to survive and return to his farm in Pino. That he did. He never participated in recognition/appreciation activities for veterans because just being able to see Lady Liberty again was enough.

John Gaither Ward seemed to feel the same way. After honorably serving his country, he was just happy to live quietly on North Pino Road and raise his family there. Both Gene and John Gaither were great patriots who were thankful in their own ways that they were able to serve their country and return to Pino.

Lonnie and Luther West were the twin sons of W.W. and  Agnes Miller West. According to the draft policy during World War II, one son would be drafted and one could be deferred to continue farming. Lonnie was drafted, and he served in the U.S. Army in the European Theater. He did not see his family for many years. Lonnie was proud that he was able to serve his country.

Three sons of Mr. and Mrs. John Harding served in the military during the war. Charles and Ray Harding served in the U.S. Army and the younger son, Harvey, served in the U.S. Navy. The Hardings’ daughter, Thelma, served in the Army Nurses Corp – four members of one family in military service at one time.

Vernon Dull joined the U.S. Navy and spent a good part of his service time stationed in Australia. Luckily, Australia was not attacked by the Japanese, but, like the other servicemen, Vernon was separated from his family for a long time. Vernon did participate in veteran activities after he returned home. He even went on one of the Flights of Honor to Washington, D.C., and declared it a wonderful experience.

Clyde Murrary, who moved to Pino long after the war, also served in the U.S. Navy. He, like Vernon, went on one of the Flights of Honor and greatly enjoyed it.

Bob Dill was the only former Pino resident who served his country in the military from near the end of World War II through the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War era. He served for 28 years, first in the Army
Air Corp and then in the U.S. Air Force, which became a separate entity and an equal branch of the military. Bob served in Korea and in Vietnam as well as at many bases around the world in the Medical Administration Unit. His rank when he retired was sergeant major. Bob and his wife, Louise, lived at the Latham homeplace after his retirement.

Pino people consider all of the veterans of World War II heroes because they did all that was asked of them in an honorable manner. All of the Pino World War II veterans are dead, which makes us realize that we should make a special effort to honor the surviving WWII veterans in this country.

World War II was supposed to the be the war that ended all war. Oh, if that could have only been true. Just over 20 years after WWI ended, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States was once again at war. WWII did not end all wars, either.

The Korean Conflict started in the early 50s. Roland West, my husband, was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Korea. The actual fighting had stopped, but the American soldiers had to patrol the 38th parallel, which was the dividing line between North and South Korea. He returned home in January, 1955.

O’Brian Dixon from the Pino community entered the Army at the same time as Roland. They traveled home together during training. O’Brian recently passed away, but Roland, 90, still remembers O’Brian and being in the military.

Gene, a member of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, served in the U.S. Air Force for several years. He received a medical discharge because he developed severe arthritis. Gene and his wife. DeWilla Dull Smith, spent a lot of time after his discharge helping veterans.

About 10 years after an armistice was signed in Korea, our military was fighting the communists in Vietnam. A number of young men from Pino served from 1961-1975. Some returned home to something less than a hero’s welcome, which was not an honorable way to welcome home war-weary heroes. This probably happened because people were upset about how the war was handled by the powers that be. The people who served in Vietnam were doing what their country asked of them and were true heroes.

The greatest tragedy of the Vietnam War for Pino was the death of John Charles Harding Jr., a U.S. Marine, who was killed at Dong Tien in Quang Nam Privince in 1968. John was killed the day before his 22nd birthday. This hero’s body was buried at Wesley Chapel. His name is on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is impressive, but it is sad to see how many lives were lost. John’s brother, Joseph Henry Harding, also served in the military. He first served in the Navy from 1967-1969 when he was discharged as a sole surviving son. He later joined the Army and served from 1976-1980. Joseph was stationed in Korea during part of that tour.

There are a number of other Pino people who served during Vietnam. L.W. West Jr. was in the Army and served in Vietnam for 15 months in 1966 and 1967. Tom Horton, a 20-year Air Force veteran, served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Bob Ellis was in the Navy. He served on the ships, the USS Essex, the USS Independence and the USS Shangri-La. Although he served during the Vietnam era, he was based out of naval stations in the United States.

Larry Tutterow did not live in Pino, but was closely connected because he became part of the West family shortly after he returned from Vietnam. Larry was in the Army and returned from Vietnam in the early 70s. He passed way when he was 68. He, like all of the others, should have had the title hero. Rick Wilson, who lives near and is involved in many activities in Pino, was in the Army and served in Vietnam for 9 months. He has terrible breathing problems. Are they a result of Agent Orange? There has not been a definite connection declared.

Calvin Trivette was in the Army. While he was stationed in Kansas, he lifted a helicopter motor and hurt his back so severely that he could not ship out with his unit to Vietnam. Many of the men with whom he had served were killed.

James “Chip” Essic Jr. was in the 17th Calvary Unit of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army. He served in Vietnam from 1970-1971. He is classified as a combat veteran.

Jesse “Pete” Gentry Jr. served in the Navy on the ship, the USS Forrestal, which was just off the coast of Vietnam when there was an accident on board that caused a disastrous fire. The Forrestal was an aircraft carrier. The pilot on one of the airplanes on the deck of that ship which was ready to take off and atttack the enemy was John McCain. McCain’s airplane was damaged or destroyed, but, as we know, he survived as did Pete Gentry. Pete said that he was one scared 19 year old that day. Many sailors were asleep in their bunks under the deck when the fire started and died there. There were 134 casualties from the fire. Those young men and all the others on that ship that day, including Pete Gentry, were heroes. A book was written about the USS Forrestal and it is an interesting read.

James Latham, a retired major, served in the Air Force for 21 years. He was stationed at a number of bases in the United States and for 4.5 years in Germany. James was a pilot and one of his duties in Germany was to fly VIPs. He and his wife built a new house and retired to Pino a few years ago.

Other men from Pino have served in the military. Lonnie Gene Miller served in the N.C. National Guard for six years. Jimmy Dull, a former Pino resident, served in the N.C. National Guard. Neil Essic served in the National Guard from 1969-1975. He was based out of Greensboro and was an air traffic controller. The N.C. National Guard is important because it protects the poeople of our state and helps in a variety of difficult situations. Its members also deserve the title hero.

Matthew Woolard and his family moved to Pino about 13 years ago. Matthew served in the Marines in the aviation area from 1988-1990. A much younger member of our community served in the Marines for four hears, from 2011-2015. He is Evan Anthony Fleming, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Fleming. Two of Evan’s four years in the Marines were in Okinawa.

So you see, Pino people continue to serve their country in times of war and peace, and the people here in the Pino community appreciate the service of each of these heroes.