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James Thurman: US Navy World War II

Thurman kept the flying boat aloft in Pacific Theater
U.S. Navy 1941-1945

From his living room looking out over his Blevins farm, 97-year-old World War II Veteran James Thurman enjoys his days with his wife Wilma and looks forward to the days he’s able to get out for a little deer hunting. Thurman’s already taken two deer this season. One with a crossbow and another with a muzzle loader. He’s still working on taking his third with a rifle.

Thurman, a Waldo, AR native, was the youngest of 10 children and came of age during the Great Depression. Thurman began driving a gravel truck for his father at the age of 17 which brought him to Blevins during the construction of the Southwest Proving Grounds. Thurman said he stayed in a hotel in Blevins while working hauling gravel for the Army facility. While attending the local Nazarene church, Thurman met his future wife Wilma, who was a student at Blevins High School at the time. Thurman said he would pick Wilma up and let her ride with him to the gravel pits and drop her back off in Blevins before delivering the load to the Proving Grounds. The two grew close.

During their courtship, war was starting to rage across the world. Then on December 7, 1941, the United State was pulled into the war with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Thurman volunteered for the U.S. Navy and was sent to Corpus Christi, TX to one of the Navy’s aviation training facilities where he trained to be a flight engineer for the Consolidated PBY Catalina, the flying boat.

Thurman took to his training so well that he stayed at the training camp for almost three years to train others. Wilma took a job in Dallas, TX at the time and the two kept in contact through letters and saw each other when they could until the two got married in July of 1944.

Thurman was deployed to California in 1945 where he would join the Naval fleet preparing to deploy to Okinawa. His new bride followed him and the two spent as much time together as they could before he boarded the USS Granville for the 45-day journey to Okinawa.

At the end of the 45 days at sea, Thurman and the rest of the fleet arrived at Okinawa, which had been captured from the Imperial Japanese Army by the U.S. Marines and Army, where they built a camp and airfield for the staging area for the invasion of Japan. There he was reunited with a group of friends from his hometown and the group shared a tent on the island.

Thurman and the other members of the seven-man crew of the Catalina were put to work flying patrols looking for submarines and conducting rescue missions in the Pacific. There were no helicopters in use for search and rescue at the time and the flying boat would deploy and land to rescue servicemen who ended up in the waters of the Pacific. Sometimes, the conditions wouldn’t allow the pilot of the flying boat to set down on the water and Thurman said they would drop life rafts and supplies to men in the water.

Thurman sat in the top of the large plane where he could access the engines during flight. He said his section had windows on either side where he could watch out and alert the crew of enemy aircraft.

Life on Okinawa on the time wasn’t easy. There were many members from the military who knew they were preparing for brutal combat with the Japanese and the Japanese pilots, many Kamikaze, harassed and attacked them regularly and then there was the weather. Thurman said that while on Okinawa, they were hit by a typhoon that lasted for three days, sunk three ships and killed several sailors.

Thurman was injured in the closing days of the war while attending a USO show on Okinawa. According to his son, Phil Thurman, many were gathered in a natural amphitheater for the show when a Kamikaze pilot attempted to attack one of the ships in the harbor. As the Japanese plane came in, people began to scatter causing rocks to break free and tumble down the amphitheater. One of the caught Thurman in the back and caused him to be briefly hospitalized. The attack failed when the plane was successfully shot down short of its target.

Thurman and the other servicemen on Okinawa woke to a surprise in early August when they were informed that the war was over and instead of invading Japan, they would be returning home. The United States had unleashed the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing the Japanese to surrender.

Thurman returned home to his beloved Wilma and returned to Arkansas. Thurman said there weren’t jobs available when they first returned but he found someone who trained him to be a surveyor and he eventually went to work surveying oil drilling sites for oil companies in Texas.

James and Wilma lived in several places over the years while James worked as a surveyor including Texas and Oklahoma. The two had three children, two girls and a boy, and eventually returned to Blevins, where Wilma’s mother lived still.

The Thurmans still live in the same house they bought on the small Blevins farm when they moved back to the area. They raised their three children and now have seven grandchildren and a good number of great-grandchildren. They are members of the local Nazarene church.

The Thurmans are looking forward to their family gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas and celebrating their 75th anniversary next July.

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Richard Hogue, Arkansas National Guard

Hogue witness to history while serving within state
Arkansas National Guard 1950-1970

For Hope’s Richard Hogue, service to his country took an unexpected detour into history, even if he didn’t directly go in armed conflict during the foreign wars of the era or encounter an oversees enemy.

But, here in his home state of Arkansas, Hogue got a first hand view of one of his country’s pivotal moments in the Civil Rights era when nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957.

“We went to Central High to keep the peace up there. The first few days that we were there, we were there to guard as these students were wanting to come in,” Hogue recalled. “And, we were to keep them out.”

The students, later known in history as the “Little Rock Nine” were not allowed — at first — to attend the then-segregated Central High School by then-Governor Orval Faubus.
Faubus had deployed the Arkansas National Guard, including Hogue among them, on Sept. 4, 1957 to block out the “Little Rock Nine” students, which captured national headlines.
As the timeline went, on Sept. 24, then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to enforce the integration and escort the students. Eisenhower had also federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, including Hogue, and Hogue’s mission suddenly changed.

“And, then the President sent two truck loads of paratroopers in, and then, we switched our assignment, where we were escorting the students in, taking care of them, and making sure they didn’t get hurt going into Central High,” Hogue said.

“And, then paratroopers were there in the daytime, and we had night duty; we slept right there on the Central High School yard in our pup-tents. We were there for several days; some of those paratroopers were there the rest of the school year,” he recalled.

Hogue got through his time of service in Little Rock without incident and returned home to Hope, although other occasional incidents in the state had Hogue deployed again.
“We battled some floods, and then, we also went to Pine Bluff one time on alert for some unrest over there,” Hogue said.

As a product of the Great Depression years, Hogue’s entry into the National Guard followed a common theme, one still motivating a new generation of young people in today’s present following the Great Recession.

“Money was tight, and opportunities were thin,” Hogue recalls, “We drilled three months, and then at the end of three months, we got a check for $2.50 a day. Money was extremely tight in that time, and I joined the service for some money. For a period of three years, I got about $2.50 a day down at Fork Polk.”

Hogue entered in 1950 as a Private, and when he retired in 1970, he was an E-7 Sergeant, with exactly 20 years of service, nearly all of it served right in the Hope area. Hogue performed his service, going to guard camps over the summer in Fort Smith, while still staying at home in Hope, running his gas station.

“The first drilling we did was out there at the airport, then they built an Armory over there by the Courthouse, and then, we worked out where they still do now by the hotels. We still have a guard unit here, and they still drill here,” he said.

Today, Hogue’s legacy has been been well-known in Hope for being the long-time operator of the Exxon off of i-20 as well as a respected and loved civic leader. Hogue was named the Hope/Hempstead Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2012 among his many community honors.

Hogue’s most well-known effort was his “Hope for Joplin” campaign to send relief and aid to tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri in 2012. Through Hogue, “Hope For Joplin” raised over $50,000 locally for the Joplin victims and delivered two semi-truck trailer loads of food and bedding supplies to those who lost everything.

Hogue was one of the Lions Chorus Singers during last year’s Veteran’s Day “Salute to American Veterans” luncheon, and he still engages in activities with the Hope Lions Club.
Even to this day, Hogue touts his military service as being of great benefit to him, and he recommends serving to young people today.

“I spent 20 in there; as I got older I have TriCare for life, and they pickup what Medicare doesn’t pay. We still go to Barksdale, and we can get free medications. I was proud of my service, and I appreciate the benefits I still get to this day,” Hogue said.

I still think it is one of the best things a young person can do. If you do what they ask you to do, and go to all the schools and classes that they ask you to, you will be well-educated, and when you come out, you will get a pension after 20 years, and most times, if you applied yourself, you can get a real good job. You have been educated on how to work and do things the right way.

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Dave Phillips, U.S. Air Force

Phillips was an ultimate ‘quality control’ operative
United States Air Force 1973-1996

It is easy to see Hope’s Dave Phillips doing all sorts of community functions, whether it is wearing a mouse outfit for Relay for Life or establishing an endowed scholarship at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana or working with the Hope Lions Club.

What is not so evident, but equal parts amazing and incredible, was the career Phillips had in the United States Air Force from 1973 to 1996, reaching the rank of Major and working on some of the most secretive and innovative national defense initiatives of the time.
Phillips said, “Yeah, there are still projects I worked on that are still classified to this day.”

In his official jobs, Phillips specialized in telecommunications and computers, and his tasks often had him involved in examining and testing out some of the most sophisticated weapons and devices being developed by the armed services.

Akin to what would be a modern day “Quality Control specialist,” Phillips would often find himself at crash sites around the globe or evaluating a new weapons system.

“Our job was to go out and ‘test stuff,'” Phillips says almost modestly. “We evaluated these devices and systems, and even if they failed, then we had to go out there, do an investigation and find out why.”

“And, where else do you get to travel the world and look at $95 million equipment?” he said.
One item that Phillips looked at — that he could mention — was a forerunner of what is known today as a Drone. Although consumer variants can be purchased off store shelves today, Phillips was examining these devices as early as 1984.

“We are still using some of the same technology and systems in that program today,” Phillips said.

Along the way, Phillips was stationed in familiar venues throughout the South, including nearby Barksdale AFB (Shreveport) as well as Eglin AFB (Fort Walton Beach), Tyndall AFB (Panama City), and Keesler Air Force Base (Biloxi). He was also stationed at far away venues like the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Phillips, who retired out of Barksdale, was also an “Officer of Day,” overseeing a command mission to Haiti.

“In the military, we did a lot of humanitarian missions and work; it wasn’t always about fighting a war, it was about helping people, too,” he said.

Today, that personal mission to help and serve people is still a major passion in his daily life as is education.

Back in June, Phillips along with his wife, Judy Phillips, established the Dave and Judy Phillips Science and Technology Endowed Scholarship at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana. It was one of several the two have established there over the years.

And his involvement and support of the Hope/Hempstead Relay for Life goes back to 1997, almost as long as the group’s longtime acknowledged leader, Jessie Lewis, and in 2017, Phillips was honored for 20 years of service with the Hope Lions Club.

Shortly after his retirement from military service in 1996, Phillips arrived in Hope to teach at the then-University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, where he has remained in some capacity ever since.

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Allen Flowers, U.S. Navy

Flowers saw different angle of combat zones
Navy 1985-2010

Coming off a long campaign for Hempstead County Judge was likely a piece of cake compared to living in the various war zones where Allen Flowers was charged with security for some of the highest ranking officers and VIPs in the Middle East.

Although Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, Flowers actually spent a good deal of his service as “boots on the ground” serving as personal security in both the Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom eras.

Now age 51, Flowers, lives in Hope, says “Eight years later, I still don’t sleep exactly the same. If there is a noise out of the ordinary, I hear it; I want to know what it is, even if it is in the middle of the night.”

Being camped out in war zones protecting high level officers — and unlike field operations — Flowers was often stationed in on-ground encampments, many times with local civilians and nationals coming and going, where tensions were always high.

“It used to be that the most dangerous time of the day was when you were eating; they knew we had an eating schedule, and anything could have happened. Sometimes in the compound, you couldn’t get lulled into a false sense of security,” Flowers recalled.

“And, you learned to trust no one; you were in a constant state of swivel, always looking, always listening, the threats out there were always real,” he said.

Things that Flowers did learn to trust were the various security dogs in and around the compound.

“Dogs have a heightened awareness about them; We were embedded with a number of dogs and dog handlers, and we patrolled with the dogs. They are smart, and they seem to know when something is not right,” he said.

Flowers was brought into Army encampments as security, although he was in the Navy, as the Army faced a number of rotations in the battle zones.

“They had rotations they had to maintain, so we got called in,” he said.
Within the compounds, Flowers heard rounds and mortars on a regular basis.
“We were always a potential target, so we were always in harm’s way,” he said.

More recently, Flowers had entered a different type of battle zone, the political one, running a campaign for Hempstead County Judge for much of 2018. Flowers was defeated Nov. 6, but he said “It was a great experience, and I was blessed with the support of 1,375 voters; I got to meet some wonderful and caring people along the way. I wanted to challenge the apathy and status quo that has been accepted for too long.”

Flowers, who is also a member of the Hope Civitan Club and a deacon at the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus, said he is evaluating his options as to what to do over the next couple of years, but he didn’t rule out another campaign.

“I am going to see what is going on; see where I can best serve the people. I was called to duty before, and I am ready to serve again,” he said.

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Hope High Football Honored Vets this Past Season

Select group named as ‘Honorary team captains’

Over the course of the 2018 high school football season, Hope High School through a project of its very own Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) honored a current or retired service veteran at its home football games in a unique way.

Named as “HHS Bobcat Honorary Sports Captains,” the honorees had the occasion to be on the sidelines, and join the regular Bobcat team captains at mid-field for the customary coin toss during football.

Honorees are also scheduled to be named during 2018 Bobcat basketball games, soccer matches, and will also be invited to do the “first pitch” at Bobcat baseball and softball games.

JAMES JONES

During the season opener on August 31, Sergeant First Class (Ret.) James R. Jones, of Hope, was the first named individual. Jones, a 1975 graduate of Hope High School, served in the Army for 22 years from 1976 until 1997, according to information from Lt. Col. (Ret.) Mark Hart.

Hart, himself, now serves as Hope High School’s AFJROTC senior aerospace science instructor. Hart said Jones had served in Operation Desert Storm with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.”

 

LEON PRINCE

First Sergeant (Ret.) Leon Prince was sponsored by the 189th Airlift Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard Chiefs’ Group and honored at the Bobcats’ Sept. 7 home game. Prince was a veteran of the U. S. Marine Corps serving active duty from June 1960, until September 1996, according to Hart.

Prince has been well-known in the area as the Hempstead County Veterans Affairs officer.

 

 

ALISON JONES

Airman Alison Jones was the first female Bobcat Honorary Team Captain as she was honored at Hope High School’s 2018 homecoming football game. Jones served for four years as an Operations Intelligence Journeyman and Information Management Work Group Manager in postings at Goodfellow, Keesler and Eielson Air Force bases, according to Hart.

“Jones is also the mother of Cadet Gianna Knight. We are proud of her service and thank her for being an example of leadership while mentoring our women, cadets and the community,” Hart said in a prepared statement.

 

PAUL HENLEY

Although well-known in Hope as the Parks and Recreation Director, Paul Henley was also a Chief Warrant Officer, serving 36 years in the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, Arkansas Army National Guard. Henley served in both Hope and Malvern, according to Hart.

“Henley represents our Reserve and National Guard members who have volunteered to serve as citizen guardians of our state and nation, answering the call to be ready at a moment’s notice to assist when called upon by the Governor or the President,” Hart said in a prepared statement.

 

J.B. ROSS

Sergeant First Class J. B. Ross, a seven-year veteran of U.S. Army Special Forces 2nd Ranger Battalion, participated in the coin toss at mid-field at Hammons Stadium prior to the Hope-Texarkana matchup on Oct. 26. Ross served in the Vietnam War, according to Hart.

UAHT Chancellor Chris Thomason also awarded Ross the commemorative “Battle of the Bridge” medallion, which was used for the coin toss in the new rivalry game between the teams.

 

NOMINATIONS

Hart said that Veteran honorees may be nominated by anyone in the community, and are chosen from the nominee pool by the cadet unit. Potential sponsors or individuals wishing to make a nomination are requested to contact LTC Hart or MSgt. Leon Mickles through the main office at Hope High School by calling 870-777-3451.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Ken McLemore, of the Hope School District, who contributed to this special report.

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Dave Rose: US Army - Vietnam War

Rose’s military service was a proud family tradition
U.S. Army 1964-1972

Dave Rose may be a Highland Falls, NY native, but he has proudly called Hempstead County home for a quarter century. Many know Rose as the Perrytown Fire Chief and a long-time employee of the City of Hope, where he retired as director of the landfill.

Rose lives in Perrytown with his wife of 43 years, Iris. The two met after Rose finished his service in the U.S. Army in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Rose grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, right down the road from West Point Military Academy. Military service is part of Rose’s DNA. Rose’s father served in World War II and was present in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked it. Rose’s oldest brother Jack served and lost his life in the Korean War. Rose was not the only one of his siblings to serve in Vietnam. His brothers Jim, Joel and Daniel also served during the war. Jim served as a Navy SEAL, Joel served with the Air Force and Daniel, the youngest of the brothers, was also in the Army infantry.

Rose said that in his family, if you were not going to college, you were expected to go into the service. He said that while Vietnam was the worst year of his life, he is proud of his service and would do it again.

Rose was not part of the draft during Vietnam. He had already enlisted and been serving three years before the time came and he volunteered for deployment in the Southeast Asian war-zone. Rose spent the first three years of his Army career stationed in Germany where he trained in explosives.

Rose said that he landed in Vietnam on July 27, 1967 as a member of the 9th Infantry Division and served in several areas until he left on July 10, 1968. There were not many opportunities to relax during Rose’s 12-month tour in Vietnam. Rose said the enemy was not always easily recognized and would regularly ambush soldiers, even using children to throw grenades into troop transports or detonate grenades attached to them. Rose’s time in Vietnam took him from the jungles in the southeast, through the deltas and rice paddies and into Saigon during the Tet Offensive in late January 1968. Rose said Saigon, during and after the Tet Offensive, was the worst thing he’s seen in his 72 years.

After leaving Vietnam, Rose was stationed very briefly at Fort Hood in Texas before being stationed in Italy for the remainder of his service.

Like many veterans, Rose said he experienced and saw things that haunt him to this day. For many years, he said, he couldn’t speak about his experiences and, even now, has difficulty speaking about his time in Vietnam with anyone other than other veterans. This led him to help other veterans cope with their experiences by being an understanding ear for them to unburden themselves to so they could try to find some level of peace after experiencing the horrors of war.

Supporting other veterans is very important to Rose and he is an advocate for them. He said he was involved in starting the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) club in 1976 so local veterans had a place where they could gather with others who share common experiences and give each other support or just have a beer or cup of coffee while talking hunting, fishing, sports or anything else of interest to them. Rose has supported organizations that work to help veterans such as Wounded Warriors Foundation, has participated in veterans’ events over the years and given presentations that reinforce the importance of all of us, as a nation, to make sure that those who have served and sacrificed in the military have the resources and support they need when they return from war.

After leaving the Army, Rose took a job traveling the country to refurbish water towers. The job brought him to Saratoga where he met a waitress named Iris on February 12, 1976. Both Dave and Iris said it was love at first sight. Iris said when she saw Dave, she knew he was the one. Dave proposed to Iris on Valentine’s Day, two days later. The two then married on February 27, 1976, just 15 days after they met. The two headed to Oklahoma, where they could get married sooner, and almost weren’t able to make it after having car problems but Iris’ boss, Perry Campbell, loaned the couple an ambulance which they drove to their wedding. The two have been happily married for 43 years and have lived in Perrytown since 1995.

Dave is retired but still serves as the Fire Chief for the Perrytown Volunteer Fire Department, a position he has served in for 24 years.

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