By SHERRY DIGMON
News Staff Writer
Atmore First Assembly of God’s annual Celebration of Freedom is indeed that – a celebration of “We the People,” patriotism, Old Glory, our flag, and the men and women who have fought to maintain America’s freedom.
The service is always held the Sunday before July Fourth. This year the date was Sunday, July 1.
Celebration of Freedom featured several patriotic songs by the choir and soloists, as well as narration by Sara Davis and Doug Waters.
Church member Katie Roley had an idea for something new for the service. With the aid of artists in the church, 48 plastic milk cartons were covered and painted on four sides, each of which became part of a mural when placed in order on stage. It was a lesson in teamwork – 48 people coming on stage, placing each carton just so. A mural was created. Those 48 folks came back on stage, dismantled the mural, went off stage, turned their carton and repeated the process. The murals were a touching addition to the service.
During Celebration of Freedom service, all branches of the military and veterans are recognized, but each year several individuals are selected for recognition.
Honored this year were Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matthew Neal Arnold, SFC. E-7 Troy Eugene Byrd, Private Carl “Buster” McGhee, Specialist 4th Class John Wayne Smith, Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Wayne Stacey, and Major Donna Kay Stacey.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matthew Neal Arnold served in the U.S. Coast Guard 1980 to 1984, with U.S.C.G. Sector Sault Sainte Marie (Michigan). He received the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation with Operational Device, Pistol and Rifle Marksmanship Ribbons, Fire Fighting Team / Out Board Maintenance Training, and Commander’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon.
SFC. E-7 Troy Eugene Byrd served in the U.S. Army, 1953-1955, and National Guard, 1955-1981, for a total of 28 years, nine months. He received the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and Armed Service Ribbon.
Private Carl “Buster” McGhee served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, 1945-1946, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, San Diego. He received the Good Conduct Medal, Sharpshooter Rifle M-1, and the National Defense Medal. Mr. McGhee is 101 years old.
Specialist 4th Class John Wayne Smith served in the U.S. Army 245th Radar Def, Btry F 26th Arty, Republic of Vietnam, April 26, 1969-June 18, 1970. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal (1st Award), National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Stars, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device (1960) and two Overseas Service Bars, Sharpshooter (M-14), and Marksman (M-16). Smith could not be at the program Sunday morning – he was in Atmore Community Hospital, suffering from Agent Orange and pneumonia. His plaque was delivered by Joe and Lauri Hall.
Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Wayne Stacey served in the U.S. Army 1965-1990, in Vietnam 1969-1970, stationed at U.S. Army Headquarters, Okinawa, Japan, Korea. He was awarded the Army Service Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal, 2nd Awarded; Bronze Star Medal, 1st Oak Leaf Cluster; Defense Meritorious Service Medal / Meritorious Service Medal 3rd Oak Leaf Cluster; Army Commendation Medal; Vietnam Service Medal with 3 Service Stars; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation; Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon / 2; Expert Marksmanship Badge Rifle / M-16; Good Conduct Medal.
Major Donna Kay Stacey served in the U.S. Army Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, 1978-1995, HQ Com 3D. She received the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Meritorious Service Medal – 3, Army Commendation Medal – 3, Army Achievement Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon – 2.
By the way, Lt. Col. Wayne Stacey and Major Donna Stacey are married to each other.
Alabama Senator Greg Albritton was on hand to present a resolution to Pastor Don Davis. Sen. Albritton and Alabama Representative Alan Baker share credit for the resolution, which read in part, “WHEREAS, for the past 25 years, First Assembly of God in Atmore, Alabama, has honored veterans within the community with a July 4th celebration; and WHEREAS, First Assembly of God highlights the service of local veterans …
“WHEREAS, it is a privilege to laud Pastor Don Davis and his congregation for their support and celebration of veterans and their recognition of veterans whose unwavering commitment to excellence in the defense of freedom and democracy and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice reflects immense credit upon the entire State of Alabama; now, therefore,
“BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That Pastor Don Davis and his congregation at First Assembly of God are honored and commended, and this resolution is offered to them in highest tribute for their patriotism, as well as with sincere best wishes for continued success in all future endeavors.”
News photos by Sherry Digmon