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‘Heroes Highway’ signs unveiled

Ceremony honors Manning, Seay

Shown from left with the facsimile signs are Gwen Harrell, Ed Parsons, William Wellman, William Steve Seay, Sarah Lee, Linda Darwish, Alan Bowser, Billy Gates, Myrtice Dixon, Dearl Dixon and Bobby Lanier.

News Staff Writer

One of Escambia County’s best-kept secrets was brought into the limelight last Saturday, December 5, when signs honoring the county’s two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients were unveiled.
The unveiling and dedication took place during a ceremony held in Atmore City Hall’s auditorium before a crowd of about 30 people.
The signs, to be placed along U.S. 31, commemorate the heroic deeds of Cpl. Sidney E. Manning and Sgt. William Wayne Seay, who earned the awards 50 years apart. Manning’s heroism came in 1918, during World War I; Seay showed his mettle in 1968, in a Vietnamese jungle.
A portion of the highway between Atmore and Flomaton will now be dubbed the Cpl. Sidney Manning Memorial Highway, while a segment of the federal thoroughfare between Brewton and Flomaton will be known as the Sgt. William Wayne Seay Memorial Highway.
Billy Gates, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7016 in Atmore, said he was among those who were unaware the county had two individuals who earned the country’s highest award for valor under fire.
“I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been in Escambia County since about 1970, and until it was brought to my attention about two and a half years ago, I didn’t know we had two Medal of Honor recipients in the county,” Gates said during his opening remarks. “I found out that not anybody else in Escambia County knew, either. That is shameful, but that is what’s happening to patriotism today.”
Gates said Bobby Lanier, the VFW post’s membership committee chair, brought the fact to his attention, then worked tirelessly to raise the funds and arrange the placement of the highway signage.
The post commander said most of the funding for the signs — about $7,000 — came from small donations but noted there were some who made larger contributions to the project. He cited Southern Pine Electric Cooperative, Escambia County Historical Society, Harvey Casen, Wanda Sorenson, Ronald Hendricks, Shawn Rounsavall and Sandy Hardee as major donors.
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff delivered brief remarks during the program, as did Flomaton Mayor Dewey Bondurant and Brewton Mayor Yank Lovelace, before Alan Bowser, commander of the Alabama Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars, gave his keynote address.
Bower, a U.S. Army veteran, said there is a bond and a brotherhood that is formed by those who have been in combat. He added that Manning and Seay personified the word “hero,” which he noted is much overused today.
“Doing what you’re doing in this community today is part of that bond, a part of the history of America,” he said. “These two gentlemen are now forever in our history.
“People use the word ‘hero’ nowadays, and it is distorted. These two men didn’t wear a mask; they didn’t wear capes. They weren’t professional football players, basketball players or baseball players. They were soldiers. These two gentlemen did the ultimate in what we are supposed to do, keep each other safe and continue the mission.”
He gave a brief account of the actions that made the two local men worthy of the Medal of Honor. State Rep. Alan Baker talked about the fundraising effort that made the roadway renaming project a reality, then family members of each man posed for photos with a facsimile of their respective ancestor’s commemorative sign.
Manning’s family was represented by his granddaughter, Myrtice Dixon, and his great-grandson, Dearl Dixon. The Seay family, most of whom traveled from Indiana for the ceremony, was represented by the medal recipient’s brother, William Steve Seay; his sister, Sarah Lee; two nephews, Ed Parsons and William Wellman, and two nieces, Linda Darwish and Gwen Harrell.
State Sen. Greg Albritton brought the ceremony to an end by reading the joint resolutions he introduced in the state Senate that eventually received approval from both the state’s legislative bodies.