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AFA hosts Celebration of Freedom

Carlis Albritton, seated; Bro. Don Davis, right; Steve Albritton, back
Bro. Don Davis, left, and Kyle Kersey
Bro. Don Davis, left, and Sylvia Morgan
Bro. Don Davis, left, and Daniel Rudd

News Staff Writer

Five local veterans, including four from the ranks of the U.S. Army and one from the U.S. Air Force, were honored by the ministers and congregation of Atmore First Assembly of God (AFA) during the church’s annual salute to patriotism, presented Sunday, June 30.
This year’s presentation was the local church’s 35th “Celebration of Freedom,” a program of prayer, praise and song that is held each year on the Sunday before July 4 to pay tribute to individuals who have worn or are still wearing one of the nation’s military uniforms.
There was little unclaimed space on the pews of the AFA sanctuary, and more than two dozen people watched from the balcony.
Six singers — Roy White, Sean Taylor, Shanna Starns, Morgan Hiebert, Josh Barnes and Kelvin Diller — sang a variety of anthems to the nation and its symbol, the U.S. flag. Barnes, Taylor, White and Starns also performed solo versions of songs ranging from “God Bless America” to Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag,” and Roxanne Jordan sang a strong version of “Star Spangled Banner.”
There was also a couple of duets, as Jordan and Barnes teamed up for “My America,” Diller and Hiebert joined voices for “God Bless the USA,” and Jamison Gilman and Jax Fillmore translated “For Freedom” into sign language. Musical accompaniment for most of the songs came from Lauren Campbell (violin), Susan Kirkland (piano) and Landon Kirkland (bass guitar).
Daniel Campbell’s ringing version of “Taps” followed presentation and posting of the U.S. and the Christian flags by AFA Royal Rangers Eli Norton, Trevor Nall and Joshua Hetrick.
The assemblage came to its collective feet during each patriotic tune, and the veterans in attendance from each military branch later stood as their respective service’s song was played. A color guard consisting of one veteran each — decked out in dress uniform — from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines stood at attention at the base of AFA’s chancel.
The entire program (directed by Sara Davis and Sean Taylor) was well-received, especially its highlight, which recognized and bestowed honor upon this year’s selected military personnel, two of whom were honored posthumously.
This year’s honorees:
*Sgt. E5 Carlis E. Albritton, U.S. Army, now 92 and wheelchair-bound, was an Alabama National Guard Communications Equipment Operator from 1948-1950 and from 1975-1984. He was activated to the U.S. Army from 1950-52 and served with Company A of the 711 Signal Battalion during the Korean Conflict.
His awards and distinctions include the National Defense Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, Secret Security Clearance, and SSM (1979).

  • SRA E-4 Kyle C. Kersey, U.S. Air Force (2021-present), has earned several medals and decorations, including Air and Space Achievement Medal, Air and Space Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air and Space Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Bar, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (Rifle), and Air and Space Training Ribbon.
    *Pvt. Hill Arthur Morris, U.S. Army, was wounded in action while in France during his 1917-18 World War I service as part of the 167th Infantry Regiment, which originated in Alabama. He took a bullet to the head that ricocheted inside his helmet and forced him to have a silver plate installed in his head.
    His medals and decorations include the World War I Campaign Medal, World War I Victory Medal, U.S. Army Service Medal and a Purple Heart. Sylvia Morgan accepted the plaque for her grandfather, who passed away in 1966.
    *PFC Grady Edward Morris, U.S. Army, helped storm the beaches of Normandy, France, during the 3rd Day Invasion (June 9, 1944) of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious invasion in military history.
    He was awarded the following decorations: Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal and Normandy Campaign Medal. Sylvia Morgan accepted the plaque for her father, who passed away in 1987.
    *SPC E-4 Daniel F. Rudd, U.S. Army, was one of the Army’s best marksmen during the time he served in Stuttgart, Germany, from 1971 through 1974.
    He was awarded the following decorations during his service: Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Sharpshooter (M-16), Expert (M-14)
    Pastor Don Davis was as excited as any member of the congregation over the patriotic performance’s success.
    “I think this was one of our best ever,” he said at the end of the program.