By SHERRY DIGMON
The annual patriotic program at Atmore First Assembly of God was held Sunday, June 27. Sara Davis rewrote the program which, as Pastor Don Davis said, had been done the same way for about the last 28 years. This year’s Celebration of Freedom, always held the Sunday before July 4th, was titled God Bless America.
The selection of songs, the recitations, and the accompanying videos were stirring. Participating were Shelia Harrison, Rick Hetrick, Ross Parham, Melinda Kriss, Carley Dempsey, Roy White, Josh Harris, Earl Bodiford, Royal Rangers Austin Minchew and Tyler McGhee, Sean Taylor, Shanna Starns, Kelvin Diller, Josh Barnes, and Bro. Davis.
Though the title and format of the service changed, one thing does not change – honoring men and women who have served our country. This year, the church honored three men – Robert J. Pitman, Christopher Cravey, and Samuel Garth Branch.
Their bios follow.
Spec. E-5 Medic Robert J. Pitman, United States Army served H Q & Spt Co 47th Med Bn, 1st Armd Div Fourth Army, Fort Hood, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; October 1963 – October 1969. He earned Expert Rifle Award, Good Conduct Medal, and National Defense Medal. His plaque was accepted by his wife Wanda and his son Robbie.
Gunnery Sgt. E-7 Christopher Cravey, United States Marine Corps served from January 1973 to December 1995, and retired as a Gunnery Sergeant while serving in a Major’s Billet. His military occupational specialties included Aviation Operations Specialist, Air Traffic Control Systems Chief, Marine Corps Security Force – Diplomatic Missions. Marksmanship awards included Rifle Expert and Pistol Sharpshooter. His extended overseas assignments included Somalia, Bangladesh, Norway, New Zealand, Korea, Japan and Philippines, along with a dozen or more countries with shorter stays. Awards (medals and ribbons) include Meritorious Service Medal; Navy / Marine Corps Achievement Medal; Good Conduct Medal – 7th Award; Meritorious Unit Citation – 2d Award; National Defense – 2d Award; War on Terrorism; Marine Security Forces. Letters of Commendation include The President of the United States; The Vice President of the United States; King of Norway; President of South Korea; Secretary of the Navy; Department of Defense / Department of Transportation Joint Program Office; US Ambassadors, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Commander, Military District Washington DC; President Richard Nixon Family / Presidential Library.
Sgt. E-5 Garth Branch, United States Army, served January 5, 1945 – September 6, 1947, South Pacific Theater of Operations. He fought in the Battle of Luzon, a battle which resulted in U.S. Filipino victory against the Empire of Japan. In that battle, 217,000 Japanese were killed; 8,000 Americans were killed; 150,000 Filipinos were killed including the Manila massacre of February 1945. His medals and badges include Asiatic Pacific w/Bronze Star; Liberation of the Philippines with 1 Bronze Star; CB1 Combat Badge (carrying 1 rifle into battle); Bronze Star for Bravery; WWII Victory Medal; Occupation of Japan Medal 1946; Good Conduct Medal; operated anti-tank rocket launcher – “bazooka”; M1 carbine / Browning light machine gun M1918A 30 cal. The 25th Inf. Div. was Light Inf. nickname “Tropic Lightning” or “Tropic Light.” They were a premier Army Response force for the U.S. Pacific Command. Activated October 1941, Hawaii, Schofield Barracks.