Thank you for your service! Local veterans find unity in Army pride
November 12, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- There are thousands of military retirees and veterans who choose to call the Fort Jackson area home. And many of them go on to continue their second career as civilians or contractors at Fort Jackson. From Post Headquarters to Child, Youth and School Services, these veterans continue to serve our country by serving our Soldiers.
In each of these veterans is the face of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and any of our loved ones who have served in the military. These former Soldiers are from all walks of life; all joined the Army for different reasons, and all continue to have that pride they displayed as Soldiers as they continue their work here on Fort Jackson.
For 90 years, the United States has recognized Nov. 11 as a day to recognize its service members - first with Armistice Day, and later as Veterans Day. Regardless of the name, it is a day set aside to honor our service members.
As part of a special tribute this Veterans Day, we highlighted four of these veterans. And though this is but a small fraction of the Fort Jackson retiree/veteran community, this is our way of saying thanks to those who served and continue to serve.
KENNEDY: THE HERO
Name: Olin Kennedy
Current occupation: Transportation supervisor, Youth Services Center; Child, Youth and School Services
Military occupation: Started in engineering, then switched to food services
Retirement date/rank: Retired in 1996 as a sergeant first class
As Olin Kennedy, who has worked at the Youth Services Center for eight years, talks about his job, his face brightens. As part of his job as transportation supervisor, he is often responsible for driving children to and from the center, as well as transporting them on field trips.
What has kept him coming the past eight years, he said, is "getting to see the smiles on their faces."
Kennedy, who also teaches Bible study at his church in Blythewood, found his calling working with children after 25 years in the Army and five years working as a cook with the S.C. Department of Corrections. But the man the children and staff of the Youth Services Center call "Mr. Kennedy," was years ago called "hero."
Kennedy recalled the day in 1981 when he was visiting a friend in Anchorage, Alaska near where he was stationed. As he looked out the window, he noticed the house across the street was on fire. He told his friend to call 911 and went outside to check on it.
"At that time, I heard a lady and a child inside the house," he said.
The voices were coming from the basement, he said, and he yelled for the woman to grab his hands through the window. He didn't get a response. So, he decided to go inside.
Once inside, he braved the heat and smoke and carried out a child first, and then the woman. He went back in to try to save the two children the woman said were inside -- her two children -- but was unable.
"As I went back to go get them, the whole staircase fell and blew me (backward)," he said.
The Army gave him the Soldier's Medal for Heroism for his actions -- which saved the lives of the woman and the child whom she was baby-sitting. He was a specialist 5 at the time, now the equivalent of a sergeant.
"It's something that sticks with you," he said of the incident.
Asked what made him go into the burning house, he said, "It didn't faze me until I was in there."
But standing in the smoke, surrounded by fire, he said he made a commitment to himself and the woman he saved: "I'm going to do this, and we're getting out of here together."
And they did.
-- Crystal Lewis Brown
WOERNER: THE RANGER
Name: Fred Woerner
Current occupation: retired
Military occupation: Infantry, foreign area officer
Retirement date/rank: Retired in 1989 as a general
After a long and illustrious career in the Army, retired Gen. Fred Woerner spends his days gardening, reading, reflecting, boating and fishing at his home on the shores of Lake Murray.
Prior to his retirement in 1989, he was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command, where he provided leadership to an organization consisting of more than 30,000 military and civilian employees in 17 countries.
His life and career adhere to his belief that, "Military service is a noble profession that offers the wonderful opportunity to serve our great country."
Woerner was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 12, 1933. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1955, he entered the Army as a second lieutenant in infantry, qualified as a paratrooper and a Ranger. His military career was divided between infantry assignments and political military duties in Latin America. He served in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii as platoon leader, executive officer, assistant S-3, and Aide-de-Camp to the commanding general. Subsequently, he served on staffs at every echelon from Division to the Army General Staff.
Woerner served two tours in Vietnam, one in which he served as an infantry adviser to regional forces in the Mekong Delta. He later returned to command the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.
After retirement, Woerner accepted a position as a tenured Professor of International Relations at Boston University, a position he held for 13 years. He also served as chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the America Battle Monuments Commission, an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government. Woerner also served as senior executive for the project to build the congressionally mandated WWII Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, including private fundraising, site selection, design, construction and dedication.
After his years of service, he believes the Army owes the Soldier, "the opportunity to grow professionally, to serve and to have fun."
In turn, the Soldier must, "make a commitment to professional excellence through studying, reading, considering, challenging, thinking, and applying."
He also said, "It is the fundamental responsibility of today's officers to train and lead in order to minimize danger to their troops in the accomplishment of their mission."
It is clear that Woerner is proud of having been a Soldier and served his country
- Teresa Sanderson
CLAYTON-BANKS: THE DRILL SERGEANT
Name: Valorie Clayton-Banks
Current occupation: Secretary of the General Staff; administrative assistant
Military occupation: Administrative specialist / drill sergeant
Retirement date/rank: Retired in 2005 as a master sergeant
Sunday morning, Valorie Clayton-Banks stood alongside many other veterans and Soldiers at her church as they were honored for their service to the country.
"I look at it as an honor," she said. "I'm just humbled and honored to be a part of those who have served."
Although she is now a DA civilian, it is obvious from the many photos of herself and her former Soldiers that she remembers her active duty time fondly.
During her 22 years in the Army, her time as a drill sergeant still stands out, she said. She said she especially liked seeing the transformation of the new recruits as they went from civilians to Soldiers.
"I liked (being a) drill sergeant so much, I volunteered to go to the 120th for a third year," she said, referring to the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). "The biggest part of being a drills sergeant, for me, was to be an example and a motivator."
For Clayton-Banks, her time at Fort Jackson has come full circle.
"When I think about Fort Jackson, they say 'Victory starts here,'" she said. "For me, victory really did start here."
Clayton-Banks started out as an administrative specialist at Fort Jackson in 1982. Ten years later, she returned as a drill sergeant with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. And 10 years after that, she returned as the post equal opportunity adviser, where she remained until her retirement.
Clayton-Banks said that although drill sergeants still have the mission of training Soldiers, there appear to be some changes.
"From what I see ... the focus now is not necessarily so much on everything being 'dress right, dress," she said, referring to the phrase meaning neat and organized. "It's to survive out there on the battlefield."
Months after retiring, Clayton-Banks started her job working at Post Headquarters, a job which allows her to remain a part of the Army family.
"To me, getting this job and being able to be around Soldiers, it's like I'm not really transitioned yet," she said. "I'm not a Soldier, but I'm still part of the Army's mission."
--Aca,!'Crystal Lewis Brown
DARROW: THE VOICE OF VICTORY
Name: Paula Darrow
Current occupation: Senior operations assistant / Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security
Military occupation: Nurse
Retirement date/rank: Retired in 1989 as a lieutenant colonel
Many of Fort Jackson's civilians, Soldiers, retirees and family members have heard the voice of the woman who is often called the "Voice of Victory," but somehow, Paula Darrow remains relatively low key.
Darrow counts being responsible for facilitating many of Fort Jackson's ceremonies, including graduations and changes of command, among her many duties as a senior operations assistant with DPTMS.
Hers is the voice most often heard reading the list of awardees at Basic Combat Training graduations or the biographies of commanders at changes of command.
But before she became the "voice of victory," Darrow was a nurse in the Women's Army Corps.
When Darrow joined the Army in 1969, women were part of the WAC, which was separate from the "regular" Army. The uniforms were different, said Darrow, as was the brass. In the 70s, the WAC was integrated into one Army.
"For me, the transition really wasn't a big deal," she said.
The biggest difference' "We didn't have classes on how to wear makeup anymore."
After her retirement in 1989, Darrow held jobs with DPTMS, Veterinary Command and the Public Affairs Office, before returning to DPTMS.
Darrow said she thinks the Army has come a long way since her time in the WAC.
Having female command sergeants major and garrison commander, as is the case on Fort Jackson, was unheard of then, she said.
When she came in the Army, she said, there were no female drill sergeants. Today, it is not uncommon to see a woman leading troops as a drill sergeant or commander.
"I think (women) became more equal," she said. "You're not just going to be some commander's administrative assistant or a nurse or a medic ... . There are a lot more (military occupational specialties) for women.
"I think (in) the Army as a whole, there is more equality, more acceptance."
-Crystal Lewis Brown