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American Legion Pike Post 197 Holds Annual Induction Ceremony

ZEBULON - The Pike County Memorial Annex honors those who have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving our county, state, and country. This includes First responders such as paramedics, Sheriff’s Office and City Police Departments, County Fire Department and City Volunteer Fire Departments, and military service members. This annual Induction Ceremony honors these members by placing of photos and information on the walls of these halls. So far, there have been nine inductees from WWII, Vietnam, and Iraq. On December 2, 2017, three families and their military service members were honored and an update was given for two of the former inductees. There are many photos from this ceremony below this article. The photos above are courtesy of American Legion Pike Post 197 and the family of these service members.

Sgt. Malcolm R. Carter and Technician 5th Grade Virgil L. Middlebrooks were killed in action (KIA) while serving in World War II. Chief Petty Officer Willie L. King is missing in action (MIA) from where he died serving on a ship in Vietnam. Their stories were told and their families were honored during this ceremony. In this article, their stories will be told again so that they can be remembered in the years to come.

There was a special honor at the beginning of the ceremony for members of our armed forces who are missing from our ranks and their loved ones. Prisoners of War (POWs) and Missing in Action (MIAs) are not at home and unable to be with their loved ones and families. This ceremony was a tribute to them and to bear witness to their continued absence.

"The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, one Armed Service Member, alone against his or her suppressors or whose status is known only to God. The table cloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms. The single rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. The rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith while awaiting their return. The yellow ribbon on the vase represents an unyielding determination for a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us. A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait. The glass in inverted. They cannot toast with us at this time. The chair is empty. They are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors or to their final resting place to the open arms of a grateful nation. The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return – and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom. Let us pray to the Supreme Commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks. Let us remember – and never forget their sacrifice. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families."

The first inductee was Lance Corporal Jeffrey D. Walker who died in the line of duty in Iraq on May 14, 2007. His showcase was updated to include a map of detailed operations leading to his death as well as his awards and unit patches and crests. He and his family were honored during this ceremony. His mother, Teresa Rutledge, and son, Conner Walker, were also presented with replacement Gold Star pins, and Conner was presented with a special dog tag in honor of his Dad. Click here to read more about LCpl. Jeffrey Walker.

On December 7, 2014, the second inductee was First Lieutenant Robert Eugene Oxford whose aircraft crashed on January 25, 1944. He was declared missing in action, but his plane was found by Clayton Kuhles from MIA Recoveries, Inc. in 2006. The family was notified by family members of other crew members who died in that crash in 2007, and the families lobbied the government to go to the crash site and bring home the remains of their loved ones for many years before a short recovery project by the DPAA finally brought home the remains of one service member from the crash, who was First Lt. Oxford. He was finally brought home to rest in at the Magnolia Cemetery in Concord, Georgia on June 11, 2017 and the rest of the remaining crew members who remain on a hillside in India. This provided closure to the Oxford family and a grateful nation.

Post 197 was honored to have received the U.S. Flag that had draped 1st Lt. Oxford’s casket and was ceremoniously folded and presented to his next of kin. 1st Lt. Oxford’s name has been removed from the list of current U.S. Missing-in-Action, and his status is now Killed-in-Action. An accompanying shadow box was added to 1st Lt. Oxford's current shadow box that displays his flag and documents his change of status from MIA to KIA. Click here and click here to read more about 1st Lt. Oxford's homecoming and the push from family members to bring all of the service members home. There are links in each story to direct readers to the many articles that Pike County Times has written over the course of the past ten years.

Pike County has the honor of having one former Vietnam POW: Specialist Sixth Class Lenard E. Daugherty. Pike County currently has two known MIAs: Staff Sergeant Joel M. Matthews, WWII and Chief Petty Officer Willie L. King, Vietnam. Members of their families and a grateful nation still wait for their return.

Pike County Memorial Annex Inductees are as follows:

Class of 2013: LCPL Jeffrey D. Walker - Iraq

Class of 2014: 1LT Robert E. Oxford - WWII

Class of 2015: PVT Charlie H. Tidwell - WWII, LCPL James T. Harris - Vietnam, LCPL Glenn R. McCuaig - Vietnam, and LCPL Lonnie L. Silver - Vietnam

Class of 2016: PFC Ralph E. Bishop - WWII, PVT Tilton C. Gooden - WWII, and SSG Joel M. Matthew - WWII

Class of 2017: SGT Malcolm R. Carter - WWII, Tech-5 Virgil L. Middlebrooks - WWII, and CPO Willie L. King - Vietnam

Here are the life stories of the Class of 2017.

Malcolm R. Carter

Malcolm “Mac” Roland Carter was born on 19 June 1919 to Windsor Jethro and Maude Ellen McGinty Carter. He was the eighth child of nine children and raised in Meansville, Georgia. Throughout his childhood, Malcolm worked tending the family farm. He graduated from the Zebulon High School. Malcolm attended the University of Georgia for two years. In 1941, he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture. Malcolm then worked as an agent for the Department of Agriculture, Farm Security Administration in Macon.

On 4 March 1942, Malcolm Carter enlisted as a Private at Fort McPherson, GA and was given the Service Number of 34262979. He conducted his basic training at Keesler Airfield in Biloxi, MS. From there, he attended Bomber Gunner training at Buckington Airfield, Fort Myers, FL and conducted additional training in Tucson, AR and Pueblo, CO, earning a diploma in Aviation Engineering. Private First Class Carter graduated in the spring of 1943 from Class SE 43-H of the 71st Army Air Forces Flying Training Detachment at Harrell Field, Camden, AK.

Sergeant (SGT) Carter was sent to North Africa and assigned without a crew to the 512th Bomber Squadron (Heavy), 376th Bombardment Group, 12th Army Air Force supporting the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He was specifically assigned as the ball turret gunner for a B-24D Liberator bomber aircraft. Based at Enfidaville, Tunisia, the 376th was chosen to lead a daring 1 August 1943 low-level raid against Romania's Ploesti oil fields. After the liberation of North Africa, on 19 November 1943, the Group moved to San Pancrazio, Italy as part of the newly formed 15th Army Air Force where the Group participated in an accelerated campaign against Axis targets in southern Europe and the Balkans. Group sorties extended as far as Vienna, Austria and Regensburg, Germany.

On 23 May 1944, SGT Carter was tasked to a B-24D-155-CO Liberator, #85, tail number 42-72772, piloted by Lieutenant (LT) Robert Gallagher of the 515th Bomber Squadron, 376th Bombardment Group. At 8:00 a.m. local time, mission aircraft departed to bomb enemy troop concentrations at Frascati, Italy, near Rome. While on the turn preparing to make the bomb run just shortly after crossing the coastline, the aircraft encountered a barrage of intense and highly accurate heavy anti-aircraft fire. The heavy bomber received a direct hit underneath the waist window. The shell exploded and blew off the entire top of the aircraft from the antenna to the waist windows. In addition, the right elevator cables were severed and left flapping. The bottom ball turret dropped to its full extended position due to the hydraulic lines being severed and added drag to the crippled aircraft by cutting down on air speed. The aircraft radio systems became inoperable. Realizing that they were approaching the target, Lt. Gallagher continued on his bomb run with a full load of six-one thousand pound bombs. The targets were entirely obscured by clouds which made it impossible to locate the targets. Lt. Gallagher, although proceeding with difficulty, did not salvo his bombs to lighten his load until all chance of hitting the target was abandoned. He kept in the formation until it was finally decided that the primary target or secondary targets could not be bombed due to the weather. Then, being over water, he salvoed his bombs through the inoperative bomb bay doors. Two other aircraft left the formation to escort the crippled aircraft to an intermediate airbase near Naples and furnish protection against enemy fighters known to be in the area.

During this time, the entire inside of the aircraft near the waist section was open to the view from the escort aircraft. It was possible to look into the damaged aircraft and see two men, evidently wounded, lying on the floor and two other crewmen rendering first aid and care. All this time, Lt. Gallagher kept his crippled aircraft under control. He was flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet and started to descend gradually toward friendly Pomigliano Airfield at the northern outskirts of Naples. While approaching the airfield, the air became very turbulent. At an altitude of 2,000 feet, suddenly the damaged aircraft nosed over and dove directly toward the ground where it buried itself and exploded short of the airfield. SGT Malcolm R. Carter was one of the aircraft’s nine crew members killed in action and was posthumously awarded the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters (for 15 combat missions) and Purple Heart Medal.

SGT Carter is buried at the Fincher Memorial Cemetery in Meansville, GA, and memorialized at the University of Georgia Memorial Gardens in Athens, GA; on the Veteran’s Memorial at the Courthouse Square and at the Pike County Memorial Annex in Zebulon, GA.

Virgil L. Middlebrooks

Virgil Lamar Middlebrooks was born on 12 December 1921 in Macon, Georgia and raised in Meansville, Georgia. He was the third child of three children of Thomas Jackson and Ethel Mae Rogers Middlebrooks. He attended the Meansville Elementary School. In 1937, Virgil was a member of the State School Boy Patrol and was selected Georgia’s Outstanding School Boy Patrolman. He worked briefly in 1938 at the Holloway Canning Company in Meansville. Virgil graduated on 24 May 1939 from the Zebulon High School in Zebulon, Georgia. Virgil was a graduate of the Gordon Military Academy in 1940 and attended freshman year at the University of Georgia in 1941.

In support of the war effort, Virgil enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort McPherson, Georgia on 29 May 1942. Private Middlebrooks completed his basic and coast artillery training at Fort Eustis, Virginia and was assigned to Fort Sheridan, Indiana for continued Coast Artillery training. After roughly two years with K Battery, 502d Coast Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment at Paterson, New Jersey, Technician 5th Grade, often referred to as Corporal, Middlebrooks in November 1944 was transferred to the Infantry, given some leave to visit family, and shipped in January overseas to support the European Theater of Operations. While in transient, he was assigned to 4th Platoon, H Company, 311th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry “Lightning” Division of the First U.S. Army. Around 14 February he was traveling through Belgium and around 25 February he reached the 78th Infantry Division main body and was further reassigned to I Company, 3d Battalion, 311th Infantry Regiment “Timberwolves”. When Corporal Middlebrooks joined his unit, they had just captured the City of Schmidt and Harscheidt and had advanced to a holding position a mile east.

On 28 February, the 3d Battalion crossed the Rohr River and on 1 March attacked Hausen. After capturing Hausen, the Battalion continued its attack south over the steep rocky hills and cliffs leading to Heimbach. Advancing from the north in the face of direct enemy self-propelled artillery fire, the Battalion overran the town. At Heimbach, the 3d Battalion reunited with the rest of its Regiment and the advance swept on at a rapid pace throughout the next five days. Stunned and surprised, the Germans were on the run. On 7 March, the 311th had reached the Ahr River where they captured five bridges intact to pave the way for a link-up with Third Army forces coming up north from the Moselle River. At 12:56 p.m. local time, on 7 March, a task force of the 9th Armored Division broke out of the woods onto the bluffs overlooking the Rhein River at Remagen and saw the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge undamaged and standing intact. At 3:50 p.m., Company A, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, crossed the bridge and reached the east bank of the river. The 311th was alerted for movement to the bridgehead.

Movement of the 311th began by trucks at 7:15 a.m. on 8 March, crossed the bridge, proceeded by foot, and by late afternoon, the regiment closed in on the bridgehead area where it became attached to the 9th Armored Division. By late evening, the 3d Battalion, 311th moved through recently captured Unkel and into a position south of Rhein-Breitbach. Throughout the day, the 311th was receiving fires from German artillery and 20mm anti-aircraft (flack guns) now being used against personnel. At the end of the day, the bridgehead was roughly 1 mile deep and 2 miles wide. It was after the Regiment’s bridge crossing in late afternoon to midnight during its movement north to its objective of Rhein-Breitbach that Technician 5th Grade Virgil L. Middlebrooks, Service Number 14119784 was killed in action, more than likely by an enemy artillery round. For actions expanding the bridgehead, on 8 March 1945, the Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Technician 5th Grade Middlebrooks was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He was initially buried at the American Cemetery at Henri-Chappelle, Belgium in Plot B-4, Row 5, Grave 100 and then his remains were moved to his final resting place at the Fincher Memorial Cemetery in Meansville, Georgia. Virgil Middlebrooks is memorialized at the University of Georgia Memorial Gardens in Athens, Georgia; and on the Veteran’s Memorial on the Courthouse Square and at the Pike County Memorial Annex in Zebulon, Georgia.

Willie L. King

Willie Lee King was born on 19 September 1937 to John Lee and Nina Mae Josie King. Willie was the 6th child of 11 children and raised in Meansville, Georgia. His family nicknames were Larry and Shorty. He graduated in May 1955 from the Zebulon Training High School in Zebulon, Georgia. His hobbies were football, baseball, and listening to jazz. He worked delivering newspapers.

Willie enlisted in the United States Navy on 13 January 1956 at Macon, Georgia. After basic training, Seaman Recruit King went to occupational specialty Boatswain Mate “A” school in Great Lakes, Illinois. The Navy's master seaman, skilled in all phases of seamanship, Boatswain's Mates (BM) train, direct, and supervise personnel in ship's maintenance duties in all activities relating to marlinspike, deck, boat seamanship, painting, upkeep of ship's external structure, rigging, deck equipment, and boats. BMs take charge of working details; perform seamanship tasks; act as petty officer-in-charge of picket boats, self-propelled barges, tugs, and other yard and district craft. They serve in or take charge of damage control details. BMs also operate and maintain equipment used for loading and unloading cargo, ammunition, fuel, and general supplies.

On 16 November 1956, Seaman Apprentice King reported for duty on board the USS Windham Bay CVE-92, an escort aircraft carrier. On 16 May 1957, he was promoted to Seaman (SN). When the USS Windham Bay was decommissioned at the end of 1958, SN King reported on board the destroyer USS McDermut DD-677 where he remained until his first re-enlistment ended. On 31 January 1959, Willie married Ophelia Kendall. SN King re-enlisted on 11 January 1960 at Naval Station Charleston in South Carolina. On 15 January 1960, SN King reported on board the destroyer USS Massey DD-778 where he was promoted to Petty Officer Third Class (PO3/BM3). On 2 January 1962, PO3 King was transferred to the Destroyer USS Turner DD-834. While assigned to the USS Turner, he was promoted to Petty Officer Second Class (PO2/BM2). On 13 September 1965, PO2 King’s second reenlistment ended. The next day he re-enlisted.

On 12 October 1965 PO2 King became a student at the Cargo Handling Battalion One at Williamsburg, Virginia. He was promoted to Petty Officer First Class (PO1/BM1) on 16 April 1966 and then went on to the Naval Station at Mayport, Florida for duty until 15 December 1967. On 29 January 1968, PO1 King reported for duty on board the Destroyer USS Frank E. Evans DD-754 where he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer (CPO/BMC). On 3 June 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans was on a combat assignment supporting U.S. Forces in Vietnam within the Combat Zone. The ship was tasked to support an international Exercise Sea Spirit in the South China Sea approximately 110 miles from the Combat Zone. The exercise involved more than 40 ships. At approximately 3:00 a.m. local time, when ordered to a new escort station, the Evans sailed under the Australian Aircraft Carrier, HMAS Melbourne’s bow, where she was cut in two.

The Melbourne stopped immediately after the collision and deployed her boats, liferafts, and lifebuoys, before carefully maneuvering alongside the stern section of the Evans. Sailors from both ships used mooring lines to lash the two ships together, allowing the Melbourne to evacuate the survivors in that section. The bow section sank quickly; the majority of those killed were believed to have been trapped within. Members of the Melbourne's crew dove into the water to rescue overboard survivors close to the carrier, while the carrier's boats and helicopters collected those farther out. All of the survivors were located within 12 minutes of the collision, and rescued before 30 minutes had passed, although the search continued for 15 additional hours. Willie was asleep in the Chief’s quarters at the time of the collision. 74 sailors were lost at sea to include Chief Petty Officer Willie L. King. His awards include the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon; and the Navy Good Conduct, National Defense Service, Armed Forces Expeditionary, Vietnam Service, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam Campaign with 60 Device, and Cold War Victory Medals.

CPO Willie King is buried at sea and was survived by his wife, Ophelia Kendall King and four children: Stanley B. King, Sonya King, Karen King McCoy, and Kelvin D. King. He is memorialized at the Mount Nebo Baptist Church Cemetery and at the Meansville Memorial Park in Meansville, Georgia; and on the Veteran’s Memorial on the Pike County Courthouse Square, and in the Pike County Memorial Annex in Zebulon, Georgia.

Two service members who survived the collision were present at the ceremony. Joe Sissel was present though he did not speak, and Richard Sawyer spoke about CPO King: "He was my hero, my mentor, and he was my friend... He was loved. He was appreciated and trusted... He was a great guy." CPO King was praised as a great teacher, and everyone who died in the line of service that day was praised as a combat veteran for their service during the Vietnam War even though their names are not on the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC.


Paul Carter, the husband of Iris City Art and Framing owner Sharon Carter, has provided the shadow boxes for each inductee. This is a way for the owner of this Griffin establishment to give back to these heroes and honor both them and their families. Pike Post 197 thanked him at the ceremony. Matt Westbrook was also thanked at the ceremony

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Briar Johnson, helped to close out the ceremony by thanking the families for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their loved ones.

Commander Bryan Richardson of Pike Post 197 closed out the ceremony by saying, "One of our objectives as a community is to somehow never forget the first responders and service members from Pike County who have given the ultimate sacrifice. We hope that this ceremony and these shadow boxes are just two methods that we can remember these native heroes and help us to never forget their sacrifice to our nation and community. Before you leave here today, I leave you all with a powerful, yet simply worded quotation from General George S. Patton, Jr. He stated, 'It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.' May these heroes inducted today and currently memorialized in the Memorial Annex never be forgotten."