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Honoring our Heros

Robert Shafton Kohn ~ 97

Robert Shafton Kohn served in combat in the U. S. Army’s Infantry for 52 days in the WWII Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of the Rhineland under General George Patton in the 3rd Army, 90th Infantry Division, 359th Battalion, Company M (Heavy Weapons). Company M used 81 mm mortars and 30-caliber machine guns. Soldiers carried a 30-caliber carbine and a 45-caliber pistol. He also served stateside in the Army National Guard for 13 months during the time of the Korean War.

Kohn received the following awards for his WWII service: American Theater of Operations (ATO), European Theater of Operations (ETO) with Two Battle Stars for the Battle of the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and the Battle of the Rhineland, Good Conduct Medals, Meritorious Unit Award, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and World War II Victory Medal.

Kohn was born in Pine Level, AL, July 28, 1922, to his parents James S. Kohn and Thelma Kohn, completing the ninth grade there. Kohn completed the 11th grade at Dunbar High School in Ramer, AL. He then attended Auburn University (AL Polytechnic Institute) for six months learning how to weld with a plan to work as a welder in the shipyards in Mobile, AL, and perhaps to become a math teacher. Instead, he worked at a cattle ranch on Mt. Zion Road in southern Montgomery County, AL. He was drafted into the U. S. Army in June, 1944, and he completed 17 weeks of Infantry Basic Training at Camp Blanding, FL. He sailed from New York City to Southampton, England. Kohn recalls receiving a bag of toilet articles from the American Red Cross as he boarded the ship in NYC and receiving ARC coffee and donuts all over where he served in Europe.

He was transported via train to a location two miles within the German occupied area. During the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of the Rhineland, Kohn served as a foot soldier during the extremely cold winter weather December 16, 1944, through January 25, 1945. Kohn recalls never having a change of clothes along with nothing to eat except K-rations. He remembers trying to survive in the cold and to drive the enemy away. He suffered frozen feet from forward marching. Finally, his condition worsened so much that he could not walk any more, and he was picked up by a medic. His left leg was purple from the knee down to his foot resulting in having to cut off his boots to treat him. He rode to a roofless medical treatment center in a combat vehicle along with some injured German prisoners. On the next day, he was sent to France via train for a week and then transported via a C47 plane to the 142nd Army General Hospital at Ascot, England, for three months and 22 days of treatments. After he could walk, he would build fires for the Red Cross at Ascot, England, and he worked as an Army telephone operator on a five-position switch-board. He was sent to Fresno, CA, and then to Eglin Field, in FL, where he answered phones assisting people. Kohn was discharged at Camp Shelby, MS, June 13, 1946.

Kohn’s conclusions about his WWII military service are, “They let me know that I was a man, and also it taught me a lot of discipline. I came to a great realization that God really does answer prayer. I learned how to obey orders. It made me a lot sterner than I would have been otherwise. I felt like it was my duty, and I wanted to make the best of it that I could. I feel like I did.” He resumed his military service and joined the AL Army National Guard on January 1, 1951, going to Ft. Jackson, S.C., working in food services that served 106 mess halls until February 20, 1952, when he was released from service at the rank of corporal.

Kohn married Syble Jeanette Jones in 1947, and they had seven children, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. On AL Highway 31 North, he operated Kohn’s Western Wear and Kohn’s Auto Sales and hauled merchandise from a GA warehouse for sale at his store for 35 years. He also worked as an auctioneer selling merchandise and can still provide an auctioneer’s dialogue. In between his livelihood, he went trail and pleasure riding with several of his friends. His musical talent includes playing a mandolin, guitar, harmonica, etc., and his band, Dixie Blue Grass, played for 12 years at volunteer fire departments and schools. The “Wabash Cannonball” was one of the band’s favorites selections. Although he sold the merchandise store in 2013, he continues each week going to used car auctions for his grandson who still operates Kohn’s Auto Sales. He doesn’t ever plan to completely retire. He enjoys eating dinner at the Front Porch Grill in Millbrook, AL, often during the week.

Captain Marvin G. Smith ~ 96

Captain Marvin G. Smith is a 96 year-old veteran who served in the United States Navy for 38 years including during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Smith received the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, Joint Service Commendation Medal, and Medal of Honor, First Class, Republic of Vietnam.

Smith was born April 13, 1923 to his Smith’s parents, Marvin G. Smith, Sr. and Bobbie Smith, in Indianapolis, IN. He was reared in Kentucky and graduated from Livingston County High School at the age of 16. After living for a while with his aunt in Indianapolis, he pleaded with his father to sign papers for his joining the Navy. At 17 years of age in January, 1941, he volunteered and entered the Navy as a “Minority Cruise” recruit for men ages 17-21, and he completed Naval boot camp in Great Lakes, IL. He then attended a technical school in Dearborn, MI, followed by service at Cape May, NJ, Travis City, MI, Eagle Mt., TX and Clinton, OK, working on guidance systems for pilotless aircraft.

After WWII ended, Smith was assigned to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, FL, where he served as the Crew Chief for Admiral Frank Wagner, the head of Naval aviation training. During the Cold War, he served on Naval cruisers and the battleship, the USS Missouri, in the Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean Sea. His next tour of duty was at the Naval Air Station at Anacostia, D.C. which also involved his completion of two years of an engineering degree from George Washington University. Smith was accepted into officers training and was commissioned with the rank of Ensign in 1955. After completing three years of sea duty, he received his B.S. Degree in Naval Engineering from the Navy Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA.

Smith had a distinguished career as a Navy officer both on ship and shore. He served as the Communications Officer and the Operations Officer on the Allen M. Sumner (DD692), Executive Officer on the Vital (MSO-474), Executive Officer on the Valor (MSO-472), Operations Officer Hoel (DDG-13), Commanding Officer on the Endurance (MSO-435), Executive Officer on the USS Dahlgren (DLG-12) and Commanding Officer on the USS O’Callahan (DE-1051). He served two tours in Vietnam, graduated from the War College at Maxwell AFB, served with the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as the commander of one of three teams each having 40 men with the Fleet Introduction Team Spruance Class destroyers in Pascagoula, MS, and served as NROTC commander at the University of MS, for two years, retiring from military service in 1979. After retirement from military service, he worked as plant manager for the Polyquip Co. at St. Joseph, TN. His last employment of 20 years was as Director of International Business Development for von Gal Manufacturing Co. which made automatic material handling systems equipment at Montgomery, AL, retiring in 2000.

He was married to Joan Merriam Smith for three years; however she did not survive the crash of an airplane that had a folded wing that she was piloting. Joan was a highly skilled aviatrix who completed the same route attempted by Amelia Earhart. She was the first person to fly solo around the world at the equator, and the first woman to fly a twin-engine plane around the world. In 1964, Joan was posthumously awarded the Harmon Trophy, one of three international trophies awarded to the world’s outstanding aviator, aviatrix and aeronaut. Her biography describing her piloting skills and records are recorded in the recently published book, Fate on a Folding Wing by Tiffany Brown. Smith has been married to Martha Ann Slade for over 52 years, and they had one son, one daughter and three grandchildren.

Since retirement from all employment in 1979, Smith has served as a volunteer with First United Methodist Church of Prattville, AL, and also with Habitat for Humanity building homes for the needy and ramps for handicapped people. During leisure time, Smith enjoys playing golf and piloting planes. In fact, he has set a world altitude record in a Cessna 210 to an altitude of 38,500 feet. This record was set to honor his late wife, global aviatrix, Joan Merriam Smith.

Reflecting upon his Naval service, Smith says, “To me it meant that it satisfied my desire to serve my country. The longer that I stayed in the Navy the more important it became to me. There was all kind of opportunity to those who wanted to advance and to get more education.” Smith received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from George Washington University and a Master of Science Degree from Troy State University as well as being a Graduate of the General Line and Naval Science School in Monterey, CA.

Morgan C. Barnes ~ 83

Morgan C. Barnes was born August 13, 1936, at Itawamba County, MS, to his parents, Fred Morgan Barnes and Birdie Eva Lena Gentry. His early childhood was spent at Red Bay, MS, and in 1939, his family moved to Birmingham, AL. He attended Shades Valley High School for three years, completed work with a correspondence school and attended Southeaster Bible College where he studied English. He was drafted into the U. S. Army at age 18.5. He completed basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., followed by 16 weeks of armor basic training at Ft. Knox, KY, with the 3rd Army Division. After serving in the Army for two years, Barnes served in the Navy Reserve for two-and one-half to three months until he suffered a knee injury. He reenlisted in the Army and served 1971-1992 totaling 24 years. He served in the Army National Guard with the 151st Engineers Battalion and then worked five days a week as a National Guard Technician retiring at the rank of private first-class in 1992. Barnes served with the National Guard on seven 30-day tours to South Korea and one 30 day tour during the time of the Vietnam War.

Barnes and his wife, Linda Britt, had two children and two grandchildren. Barnes in reflecting on his life said, “There have been some good times and some bad times. What goes around comes around. You can always depend on God.”

Allison Vernon Barnett ~ 92

Allison Vernon Barnett served as a U. S. Navy medic for two and one-half years during WWII becoming a skilled surgical technician and nurse for the wounded Navy personnel. Barnett was born in Fitzpatrick, AL, to his parents, Andrew Hill Barnett and Ella Albritton Barnett. When he was four years old, the family left Fitzpatrick and went to Florence, AL, where he graduated from high school. After a military recruiter came to his school, Barnett volunteered in August, 1944, to serve in the U. S. Navy because the recruiter had told him that if he registered for the draft, he would be allowed to choose which branch of the military that he preferred. Taking a train to the Great Lakes Naval Station, he completed Basic Training where he was trained as a medic and a pharmacist mate and was awarded a leadership position. Barnett had always wanted to be a physician. The medics were greatly revered by the Marines because they were the only ones that could keep them alive until they reached a hospital. Barnett received further medical training at the Bob Wilson Navy Hospital in San Diego, CA. Barnett was assigned to serve at a hospital at the Norman Naval Air Station in Norman, OK, where he remained for the rest of his time in the Navy. Although there were several occasions when Barnett was called to go overseas, the doctors at the hospital would block those orders because he had become a valuable member of the medical staff. Barnett was discharged from the Navy.

Barnett’s civilian life after serving in the Navy began with his using the G.I. Bill to complete a degree in Secondary Education majoring in chemistry and biology at Florence State Teachers College; however, he did not pursue a teaching career. Instead, he first worked for a seat cover business in Memphis, TN, for two years followed by working for a cotton selling business in Houston, TX, and then to Osaka, Japan, for two and one-half years also selling cotton. Barnett created his own cotton-selling business, Barnett Sales Co. in Lubbock, TX, where he worked for 40 years. Returning to his family’s farm in Fitzpatrick, AL, he built a house, purchased 250 head of cattle and established a cattle raising business which is now operated by his son.

Barnett and his wife, Millie, have been married over 52 years, and they have two sons and two grandchildren. They are members of the University Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL, and they have enjoyed just sitting on the front porch of their house in Fitzpatrick. He also has enjoyed fishing, playing bridge and cultivation of vegetable gardens. When he lived in Lubbock, TX, he served on the Boards of Directors of the Lubbock Christian University and the Lubbock Children’s Home which are associated with Churches of Christ in Lubbock.

Barnett reflects upon his Naval service during WWII saying, “It meant a lot to me to serve my country. I did what was expected, and I think that I did a pretty good job. It was very much appreciated.”

Col. Walter E. Hines III ~ 83

Col. Walter E. Hines served in the United States Air Force for over 30 years. His military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His military service encompassed up to two years in Vietnam as a navigator transporting personnel and supplies and rescuing downed pilots. In addition, Hines’ supervisory positions ranged from operational/ academic planner and classroom instructor to politico-military strategist and policy developer in Latin America and senior faculty leader in a graduate-level college.

Col. Hines was born November 11, 1936, in Knoxville, TN, to his parents, Walter E. Hines Jr., and Lalla Virginia Massey. After graduation from Fulton High School in Knoxville, he entered the Air Force R.O.T.C. at the University of TN where he graduated with a B.S. Degree in Journalism/Advertising. Because he always wanted to fly, he selected the Air Force over the other branches of the U. S. military.

Hines’ first Air Force assignment was completion of training in air defense at the radar school at Tyndall A.F.B. near Panama City, FL. Following this training, Hines was stationed for three years in Spain as a radar controller. He was then sent to James Connally A.F.B. at Waco, TX, where he completed training as a navigator. Afterwards, he flew the C-133 Cargomaster at Dover A.F.B. at Dover, DE, for two years.

His almost two years of Vietnam War service included one year in 1965 in Saigon at the Tan Son Nhut Air Base as navigator in various planes including the C54 (DC4), C118 (DC6), C47 (DC3) and C123, transporting military personnel to Thailand, the Philippines, and various R.& R. sites such as Hong Kong. In 1966, Hines was transferred to Eglin A.F.B., FL, where he trained in the HU16, a Grumman amphibious flying boat used to rescue downed pilots. After Eglin, he was sent to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, from where he went back to Danang Air Base, Vietnam, on repeated TDYs for the next 2½ years as a navigator flying rescue missions in the Gulf of Tonkin. He personally was involved in the hazardous duty of rescuing pilot including two Marine Corps pilots in Haiphong Harbor and another Navy pilot rescued in the South China Sea.

In 1968, he attended George Washington University and received an M.B.A. Degree in Personnel Management. Hines was then sent to Scott A.F.B., IL, to serve as a war plans officer with the Military Airlift Command for three years. During this time, he authored the airlift support plan for the repatriation of American POWs from North Vietnam in 1973. This was followed by the completion of professional education at the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Va. He received his ED.D. in Educational Administration from Auburn University in 1978. He then served as a teacher at the Academic Instructor School, supervised a computer-assisted instruction project and completed studies at the Air War College at Maxwell A.F.B. Montgomery, AL. In 1978, he was assigned to Randolph A.F.B., TX, where he served as Director of Educational Plans. In 1981, he moved to the Republic of Panama as the J5 Director of Plans and Strategies for Latin America. Hines was involved in regional security and humanitarian assistance and provided advice to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Next, he served as the Executive Officer to the four-star commander of the Readiness Command at MacDill A.F.B., FL. His final assignment was a return to Maxwell, A.F.B. in 1985 where he served on the faculty of the Air War College as Director of Curriculum and Associate Dean of Faculty, retiring in 1988.

Col. Hines reflects on his military service stating, “I had plans to get out of the Air Force after three years and then to pursue a journalism career. Since elementary school, I had always wanted to fly. Because my vision was not good enough to be a pilot, I found that I could fly by becoming a navigator. I loved the camaraderie and the people who had the same objectives of service that I did. I particularly liked the Rescue Service because we felt like we were making an important humanitarian contribution. Later I found that I could be involved in national decisions. I would do it again.”

After military service, Hines served on the academic vice-president’s staff at AL State University in Montgomery, AL, for 13 years where he planned and led the implementation of a campus-wide, computerized network to track progress in the university’s quality assurance program and directed a university task force in the preparation of a comprehensive self-study leading to the reaffirmation of accreditation by SACS in 2000. He started a private consulting company, Research and Assessment Associates.

Col. Hines and his wife, Mary Eleanor Loose, have been married 61 years as of Oct. 2019; they had one son and three daughters, who have given them four grandchildren and one great-grandson. Since beginning musical training playing the clarinet in the 6th grade, Hines developed his musical talent playing the clarinet and saxophone throughout the years. He has played for many years in the Southeastern AL Community Band in Troy and in the Capitol Sounds Concert Band in Montgomery. He also plays from time to time with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and at Montgomery’s Frazer United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church. He toured with the Russ Morgan Orchestra for 14 years and founded the Montgomery Recreators Dance Band leading the Band for 27 years. In addition, Hines also sings tenor with a Praise Group of Christchurch Anglican, Montgomery, AL. Hines has served as a consultant to the Explorer Scout Program with the Tukabatchee Area Council. Col. Hines had a distinguished career in the United States Air Force: he continued his leadership in academia as well as providing services to companies needing analysis of data. His instrumental and vocal musical talent have provided years of enjoyment to others.

Lt. Col. William C. Stewart ~ 82

Lt. Col. William C. Stewart served 25 years in the U. S. Air Force. Having been born July 5, 1937, in Esanaba, Michigan, to his parents, George Stewart and Martha Borgild, his family moved to Mobile, AL, where his father worked in the shipyards and where Stewart was reared. Stewart’s father and brother passed away before his graduation from McGill High School in Mobile, AL. He worked at the Mobile shipyards during high school and during several summers while attending college although he received some scholarship assistance.

Stewart participated in the Air Force R.O.T. C. and graduated in 1960 with a B. A. Degree from Sewanne, the University of the South, with a major in Southern history and a minor in Russian history.

Stewart was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. but because of his being color blind, he could not become an Air Force pilot. Stewart’s first assignment was at the supply office at Shaw A.F.B. at Sumpter, S. Carolina. His second assignment was at the Ualalkert Radar Station working in surveillance of Russian planes flying near North Pole, Alaska, during the time of the Cold War. He served three years in the education of future Air Force officers in the R.O. T. C. program at U.C.L.A., and while he was there, the personnel at the R.O.T.C. facility narrowly escaped death when anti-Vietnam War protesters bombed the area. Stewart’s next assignment at Maxwell A.F. B. was involved with the creation of Jr. R.O.T.C. programs at high schools. An opportunity arose for Stewart to be sent to Teheran, Iran, but he turned down this Accompanying Tour because his wife and son had asthma; however, this was fortunate for Stewart because the man who replaced him was killed riding a bus there.

His career in educating NCO personnel began when he was sent to Okinawa to serve three years as the commandant to set up professional NCO military education for the Pacific Theater at Japan, Hickam Field, Hawaii, and other bases. He created and organized the Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) to provide comprehensive education to prepare enlisted Airmen to be adaptable, ethical, and willing to execute assigned leadership responsibilities to overcome current and future leadership and management challenges in order to effectively operate in complex and ambiguous environments. Through Stewart’s leadership, approval for accreditation for all of these schools for the Air Force Noncommissioned Officers Academy was granted from the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS). Sergeants from each branch of the U. S. military also participated in the Academy. At that time, Stewart became involved with the Strategic Air Command at Guam. He returned to Maxwell A.F. B. where he was in charge of the testing at the Air Force Air War College retiring in 1985.

Stewart and his wife, Susannah Childress, whom he met while attending Sewanee have been married 58 years, and they had three children including one son and two daughters and four grandchildren. Since his military retirement, Stewart taught AL history and economics at Trinity Presbyterian School for 10 years. Next, he worked as a tour guide for groups touring Alabama for 23 year retiring in 2018. Continuing his physical training from his military years, he swims 750 nonstop yards several times weekly. His strong patriotism shines as he presents inspirational programs on the American flag at meetings of organizations.

Stewart concludes about his military service saying, “I like what I did. I did a lot of good staff like putting in school systems. It was not easy. Serving my country meant a lot to me especially as I grew older because I was helping others.” His family enjoyed going to live in different places. He encouraged Airmen to continue their military service through the Reserves or the Guard after they were discharged from active service.


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