Medal of Honor recipients to be honored with U.S. 31 signs
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Most people outside Escambia County, Alabama — as well as most people inside Escambia County, Alabama — don’t know it, but the county is one of the few rural districts in the U.S. that were home to two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. That’s about to change.
Billy Gates, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7016 in Atmore, announced last week that an attempt to have roadside signs erected to commemorate the accomplishments of the two soldiers, has changed from dream to reality.
“The effort to honor our two local Medal of Honor recipients has come to fruition,” Gates said, noting that Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) officials have already signed off on the project. “I’m not sure any one other county can claim two Medal of Honor recipients, but we’ve had two here, and hardly anybody knows about it.”
ALDOT will allow placement of either three or four markers (the final determination, as well as the location for each was to be made Tuesday, November 17) along U.S. 31. Gates said he thought one would be in Atmore, two would be erected within Flomaton, and the other in Brewton.
Flomaton was home to Cpl. Sidney Manning, the first county resident ever to receive the country’s highest military award for bravery. Manning, 26 at the time, provided cover fire for the six other survivors from his platoon during an assault on a German stronghold in France during World War I, despite being hit by nine enemy bullets.
Manning, whose medal was personally awarded by Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, returned to Flomaton after World War I and lived there until his death in 1960.
He was the luckier of the two locals who earned the nation’s highest military honor.
The second, Sgt. William Seay of Brewton, was just two months shy of his 20th birthday when a convoy for which he was one of the drivers was ambushed on a jungle road in Vietnam.
Seay twice picked up live North Vietnamese grenades and tossed them back into the attacking force. When he was shot and unable to use his right arm, he shifted his rifle to his left hand and continued to hold off the swarming NVA soldiers. A sniper’s bullet finally ended Seay’s heroic act.
Gates said raising the $7,000 for the signs was a team effort led by Bobby Lanier, the local post’s membership chairman.
“This was a VFW team effort, but most of the credit is due Post member Bobby Lanier,” the 7016 Commander said. “He started the idea for the project, so I appointed him as committee chairman. He has worked many, many hours on the phone and traveling to make things happen.”
Lanier was able to secure two grants, but most of the funding came from individual donors.
“We wanted it to be a community effort, to give a sense of Escambia County ownership,” Gates said, adding that no Post 7016 funds were used. “We did have two grants, but the balance came from individual donors, with some making a monthly donation as they could. We are super proud of the efforts by many, from small to sizable donations.”
He said each donor will be recognized and thanked during a dedication and unveiling ceremony set for 10 a.m. Saturday, December 5, at the Veterans Memorial Monument outside Atmore City Hall.