Honoring our Heroes
April 1, 2020 | View PDF
Brigadier General Marvin Kent Speigner: Age 96
Brigadier General (BG) Marvin Kent Speigner served in the U. S. Army for 35 years. His medals and awards are: Combat Infantry Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with Three Stars, World War II Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Service Medal Alabama Commendation Medal and Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal.
BG Speigner was born in Enterprise, AL, to his parents, Leroy and Tommie Speigner June 10, 1923, as the 7th son in his family. He was reared and educated in Enterprise graduating from Enterprise High School. BG Speigner worked as a carpenter at Ft. Rucker (Camp Rucker) having learned the skills of such work from his father. He was drafted into the U. S. Army January 7, 1943, and completed Basic Training at Camp Croft, SC, with further training as a machine gunner in the Infantry at Camp Livingston, LA. BG Speigner was deployed with the 149th Infantry to the Asiatic Pacific Theater traveling through the Panama Canal with the 38th Infantry Division. He received jungle training in Hawaii and then was sent to New Guinea and to Leyte, the seventh largest island in the Philippine Islands. BG Speigner valiantly served in combat in the liberation of Leyte and Bataan. The mission was to defeat and expel the Imperial Japanese forces. BG Speigner arrived on beaches aboard the Landing Ship Tanks (LST) making the amphibious landings with the Infantry wading ashore. The conditions of combat were terrible during mostly rainy seasons fighting the Japanese who didn’t want to ever surrender. He served there on three beachheads until just after the Japanese surrendered August 5, 1945, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. BG Speigner returned to America for separation from the Army at Camp Shelby, MS, in 1946 after serving almost three years of deployment.
BG Speigner went into the Inactive Army Reserve for a year working in carpentry on building houses, but he reenlisted in 1947 to serve in the Army’s Artillery reporting to Ft. Sill for artillery communications training. He next went to Ft. Bliss, TX, for training in radar systems. BG Speigner joined the 226th Army Artillery Group in the National Guard where he maintained radar guidance systems for the anti-aircraft artillery. In 1952, he went to Seattle, WA, for the purpose of replacing the guns with a missile system. BG Speigner returned to AL and worked with the Army National Guard. He worked with the storage sites for radar sets for vehicles in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery. BG Speigner then served as the administrator officer for the signal units for the AL National Guard. He attended the U. S. Army Advanced Signal School in New Jersey and the U. S. Army Armorer School in Kentucky. BG Speigner became the administrative officer of the Army’s 31st Division in AL. His rank continued to rise reaching the rank of One Star General. In 1975, he retired as the Deputy Adjutant General of the AL National Guard.
Immediately upon military retirement, BG Speigner opened the real estate company, Southern Properties, after receiving his real estate and broker’s licenses. He then ran Southern Mineral Leasing, Inc. for five years returning to his real estate business and worked with it until he retired at age 79.
BG Speigner and his wife, Hazel, have been married 72 years. and they have four children, 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. One son, one
son-in-law and two nephews have served in the military. For many years, he and his wife enjoyed traveling. He built houses which she decorated at Lake Martin and Gulf Shores, AL, and he bought, rebuilt and resold beach condos. He is a strong, avid supporter of the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide
football team having listened to Bama’s games on a radio as a young boy.
BG Speigner reflects upon his service to America saying, “I was serving my country. I enjoyed it. I was in construction before I joined the military, but I didn’t feel about it like I felt about the military. At the end of the day in the military, I always felt that I had accomplished something.”
Lee Andrews Kennedy: Age 91
Lee Andrew Kennedy was born May 12, 1928, in Camden, AL, to his parents, Van Kennedy and Evie Dee Kennedy in low socio-economic circumstances in a rural setting during the times of segregation in Alabama. His mother passed away when he was only four years of age, and his grandmother, Mary Ella James reared him and taught him to live by always trying to help people and to respect people. He walked five miles to school and graduated from high school at the Camden Academy in 1950. He attended Alabama State University for a while until he was drafted entering service with the U.S. Army April 27, 1951. He was sent to Ft. Brag, N.C. for basic training and then to San Antonio for training with artillery. He was deployed to Korea where he served 1.5 years, used the Carbine M1 and 90mm guns and was the gunnery sergeant commander on a 16 ton gun. Kennedy concludes about his military service saying, “It taught me how to get along with all kinds of people. My experiences as a sergeant in Korea changed my life. It changed by attitude and my perspective.”
After discharge from the military, Kennedy resumed his education at Alabama State University studying physical education and social studies in the teacher preparation programs. He then worked with moving companies in Montgomery for a while, and then delivered school supplies for the Montgomery Paper Company in various parts of AL. The Montgomery Bus Boycott had ended its successful efforts, and Kennedy applied for work as a driver for the Montgomery City Lines. He was the third African American to become employed in this work, and he continued working with this for 20 years. He also drove vehicles for the Montgomery Y.M.C.A., and he retired in 1999.
Kennedy and his wife, Linda, have been married 30 years. He was married twice previously, and he had three children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren with his first wife. Kennedy has been a member of the Beula
Baptist Church in Montgomery, Al, for over 50 years where he has served as a trustee, a deacon and president of the W. L. Alford Gospel Chorus in addition to membership in the Male Chorus. He has also participated in Beulah Baptist Church’s meals on wheels program. He has been a member of the W. T. Wood Masonic Lodge for 60 years. He and his wife enjoy riding bicycles.
Kennedy’s biography has been described in the book, The Third Black Bus Driver: The Montgomery Bus Boycott: The True Story of the Man Behind the Wheel. Information about purchasing the book can be found at this website: http://www.thirdblackbusdriver.com. This is an important story about one of many unsung heroes who helped fulfill the demands of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Kennedy reflects on his experiences as a Black bus driver saying, “I am a typical person who found himself in unusual circumstances, and I did what I had to do.”
Bobby Neville Asbury:
Korean War Veteran: Age 89
Bobby Neville Asbury is a veteran who served one year in the Korean War during his almost four years in the U. S. Army. He received the following medals: Army Commendation Medal and the Korean Service Medal with Three Bronze Stars.
Asbury was born in Lakeland, FL, to his parents, Jack and Jessie Mae Asbury May 29, 1930. He was reared in Montgomery and Verbena, AL, dropped out of high school to assist his father in building a log house in Chilton County, AL, and later received his GED. Asbury volunteered for military service, and he joined at a recruiting station at Maxwell Field, AL, in 1948. He completed Basic Training at Ft. Jackson, SC. After taking aptitude exams, he was sent to a leadership school. Asbury was then assigned to the 1st Calvary Division near Tokyo for one year. He deployed to Korea with the artillery that fired the large 155 mm guns and worked in the fire direction center. Asbury experienced the trauma of the loss of many American soldiers in northern Korea with the 2nd Division. One of the highlights of his time in Korea was being entertained by Bob Hope in a USO show. Asbury developed vision problems while serving in Asia. He was sent to Ft. Benning, GA, where he served as a public information officer and wrote articles about AL troops and sent them to their hometown newspapers.
After discharge from the military in 1952, he held a variety of jobs. He worked selling advertisements, auto parts, insurance for Liberty National and audio-visual equipment for schools with EBSCO, supervising carriers for the Montgomery Advertiser and driving a delivery truck for wholesale sales for Teague Dairy Co., Barber Dairy Co. and Colonial Bread Co. retiring in 1998.
Asbury and his wife, Joyce, were married for 67 years before she passed, and they had three daughters and one son, 10 grandchildren and 15 great-
grandchildren. He recalls his courtship of his wife when it was necessary for him to ride a bicycle and then to take a ferry to cross the Coosa River in rural Chilton County, AL, to reach the place where she lived. He has enjoyed rooting for the Atlanta Braves Baseball Team, serving as the first ordained deacon at the Catoma Baptist Church, spending time with his family and traveling with the United Commercial Travelers, a fraternal organization of salesmen.
Asbury reflects on his military service saying, “It was a pretty good thing because I’ve got a lot of good benefits since I got out. Because of my eyesight problems, the VA has furnished me with glasses and sent me for visual impairment training I seemed to get along while I was in there. I was always near the headquarters except when I was with the artillery in the 2nd Calvary Division near the Yalu River in North Korea. Those boys got shot up before they could get out of the truck. I saw it, and it was sad. The bodies were lying in the two and a half ton truck like it was firewood.”
James E. Dyson Jr .: Age 89
James E. Dyson Jr. served 30.5 years in the U. S. Army with one tour with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Dyson began his military service as a private retiring at the rank of Sergeant Major. He worked, observed and learned beginning in the area of transportation and progressing to recovery ordinance becoming an instructor in recovery, shop foreman, production control supervisor, ordinance maintenance chief at the Pentagon and finally as the Army’s Inspector General. His military awards and medals are: National Defense Service Medal (One Oak Leaf Cluster), Good Conduct Medal (8th Award), Army Commendation Medal (One Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Medal, Vietnam Service (Two Bronze Stars), Vietnam Campaign Medal (60 device), Two Overseas Service Bars, Drivers Mechanic Badge "T", Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with Palm Unit), Meritorious Service Medal, Sharpshooter (M-14), Expert (M16) and 10 Service Stripes.
Dyson was born December 20, 1930, in Palmetto, FL, to his parents, James E. Dyson Sr. and Queen Simms, and he was reared near Tampa, FL. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and worked in labor- intensive odd jobs such as washing dishes and being a busboy in hotels. At age 17, his mother signed the paper for him to join the Army, and he completed eight weeks of Boot Training at Ft. Dix, NJ. Dyson was assigned to work in transportation where he was taught to drive vehicles such as a 2.5 ton truck which he did for five years. His first duty station was deployment to Munich, Neuremberg and Schlangenbaden, Germany, in 1948 at the time of the Berlin Airlift hauling troops for the 1st Infantry Division for almost four years. He was discharged from the Army for 17 days, and he re-enlisted because of hopes of getting a job and an education. Dyson concludes that he was spiritually guided with that decision.
Dyson was then sent to Ft. Jackson, SC, still working in transportation. His next assignment was at Ft. Benning, GA, where he was a jeep driver for a year followed by assignment to Ft. Knox, KY, for eight years where his military
occupational specialty (MOS) changed to working with recovery including removing tanks from mud holes, transporting tanks back and forth to shops, weapons transport, heavily lifting for the company and rapid standby bringing disabled vehicles back to the company. Dyson says, “I met a whole lot of educated, smart people in that unit including mechanical and petroleum engineers as well as psychologists and I learned a lot from them.” He was advised by a psychologist that if he wanted to learn some basic psychology to read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Dysons recalls reading that book eight times during his military service and three times during his retirement following the advice found in this publication. Dyson concludes, “You can’t control everything around you, but you can control your reaction to these things. The most important person in the world to you is you. Why argue? When you argue, if the person is going against his will, he is still of the same opinion.”
In 1962, Dyson deployed to Korea, with the 44th Engineers first working as a motor sergeant and then demilitarizing 475 armored personnel carriers going in one day from 13 to 87. In 1962, He had temporary duty to Thailand teaching recovery, driving, operating and maintaining tanks for the Royal Thai Military for three months where he learned to speak and sing Thai. After returning to Korea, he went to Ft. Benning, GA, working in recovery followed by deployment to Neuremberg and Schlangenbad, Germany, reaching the rank of E8 in 1965. He became Maintenance Platoon Sergeant supervising a section of 59 men where he led in the rebuilding of jeeps and 2.5 ton trucks. Then he became Shop Foreman Production and Control Supervisor. Among those being trained in this field of vehicle reconstruction, he graduated 2nd in his class. He returned to Thailand as an advisor to a regiment tasked with getting vehicles ready by deadlines for the 3rd Royal Thai Army. In 1968, he went to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD, and served as an instructor and Chief of Recovery. In 1970, he deployed to Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division for nine months. Following another assignment to Ft Benning, GA, he was sent to the Pentagon for 37 months as Ordinance Chief. His final duty station was at Ft. Benning, GA, as Inspector General of supply, medics, armor, cooking, etc. for the entire U. S. Army where he retired November 1, 1978.
When reflecting on what serving in the military meant to him, Dyson says, “I was able to take out an allotment to my mother in the beginning providing her with $137.10 a month. When I got married, I was able to support my wife and family.”
Dyson and his wife, Mary, were married 65 years before she passed away, and they had three children, 13 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. Carrying on the tradition of service to America, all three of James’ and Mary’s children served and reached full retirement in the Army. Since his military retirement, Dyson has visited veterans who are patients at the Bill Nichols Veterans Home in Alexander City, AL, and participated with other veterans by going to the Central AL Health Care System West Campus in Montgomery, AL, where he played bingo and visited patients convalescing in the hospital there. He is an active member of Chapter 607 Vietnam Veterans of America and also with Disabled American Veterans. Dyson is a local celebrity on radio talk shows where he is known as "50/50", on radio stations, 102.7 FM and 1440 AM. He's hard hitting, controversial and claims he can present both sides of a discussion. He maintains his lawn keeping it free of weeds.
Dyson is a voracious reader having read over 190 books since his military retirement. Dysons’ conclusions about his lifelong learning are, “The way I learned along the way was when you are observing an operation, watch what is being done, and in the conversation, listen to what is being said. The whole world is my country. Everybody is my brother or sister. To do good is my
religion.” Dyson helps people giving from his heart but preferring to remain anonymous. Coming from a low socio-economic background in segregated American society, Dyson has used his keen intelligence, his ability to get along with others, his perseverance and his determination to do well by achieving and succeeding where others might have given up.
Bobby Joe Mitchell: Age 76
Bobby Joe Mitchell is an Alabamian who served five years in the U. S. Marine Corps 1961-1966. Carrying on the tradition of his family’s military service given by his father who served in the Army and his older brother who served in the Army National Guard, at the age of 17, Mitchell joined the U. S. Marines and was sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island for Boot Camp. Mitchell survived the stressful whirlwind of in-processing, haircuts, uniform and gear issue and medical evaluations. After undergoing an initial strength test to ensure he was prepared for training, he met his team of drill instructors who were responsible for the rest of his training. Mitchell received instruction on military history, customs and courtesies and hand-to-hand combat skills. He had to learn to leap into deep water, to tread water to stay afloat and to shed heavy gear that could pull him under water. Mitchell’s training included weapons marksmanship, close order drill and personal hygiene. He was trained not only physically and mentally but morally as well. Marines learned the Marines’ Core Values—Honor, Courage and Commitment. His MO was one of a four-man Fire Team ready for combat. He served in security at the Naval Base at Charleston, S.C., and was deployed on a naval ship patrolling off the coast of Cuba during the October, 1962, Cuban Missile Crisis, a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union after discovery of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba. For two years, he also served at Camp Geiger, part of the Marine Corps Base at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
Mitchell, the fifth child of his parents, Ocie and Thelma Mitchell, was born September 5, 1943, in Birmingham, AL, and he was reared in Barbour County, AL. After discharge from the Marines, he worked in air conditioning maintenance in his own company, Mitchell Service, and other such companies for 50 years. He worked in Dothan, AL, and Chipley, FL, and Ozark, AL, retiring in 2000 after injuring his back. Mitchell enjoys reading newspapers and magazines as well as watching television. Mitchell and his wife, Katie Williams Mitchell, had two children He enjoys feeding birds especially a parrot that he has had for several years.
Reflecting upon his service as U. S. Marine, Mitchell states, “We had to keep the peace. We were war people. We had to do what we were told.”
Robert Wesley Marcus: Age 80
Robert Wesley Marcus served in the United States Marine Corps for four years. Marcus was born in Montgomery, AL, September 6, 1939, to his parents, Henry Edward Marcus, Sr. and Thelma Louise Bagwell Marcus. He was reared in Montgomery, and he served in the Naval Reserve for one year at age 16 by training one summer at Bainbridge, MD, followed by his leaving Montgomery’s Lanier High School to join the U. S. Marines July 29, 1957. His Basic Training for 20 weeks was at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC, in the Marine Corps Boot Camp O311 preparing for combat where Marines are referred to as “grunts” followed by infantry training at the U. S. Marine Corps Base Camp Geiger, S.C., home of the Marine Corps School of Infantry East learning to fire the BAR rifle and receiving combat training. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Division at Camp LeJeune, NC. followed by three trips aboard Navy ships to the Mediterranean Sea during the difficulties at Lebanon during 1958. He sailed on the USS Pocono (AGC-16), an Adirondack class amphibious force command ship, the Cambria which joined the 6th Fleet in support of the American landings at Beirut, Lebanon, and on a USS Landing Ship Tank (LST) used to support the amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo and landing troops directly onto shore with no docks or piers. His next assignment was to Cuba for six weeks to protect the American Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Returning to Camp LeJeune for three years of additional training, he then transferred for one year to the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, FL for service as Corporal of the Guard at a brig, a prison for military prisoners, and he also flew all over the U. S. A. as a prisoner chaser picking up prisoners. In addition, he served on the Honor Guard raising and lowering the American flag each day. In June, 1961, his four years of military commitment ended with his honorable discharge.
After discharge, Marcus returned to Montgomery where he later completed his GED and started a family including two children and four grandchildren. Marcus has worked in a variety of jobs including selling home and auto products and working as the first and only white, male teacher at a Head Start Center in Montgomery, AL, for three years and with the Mobile, AL, Head Start Training Office for five years teaching at the Child Development Center at Brookley Air Force Base. In 1967, Using the G.I. Bill, he attended night classes at the University of Alabama’s Bell Street Extension Center and at Auburn University in Montgomery, AL. In 1971, he was hired to teach at the Child Development Center at the University of South Alabama where he transferred graduating with a B.S. Degree in Early Childhood Education. He became a kindergarten teacher and taught for 25 years with the Title I program at Butler County, AL, at the Baptist Hill School for seven years and the W.O. Parmer Elementary School for 18 years retiring from teaching in 2001.
After retirement, Marcus returned to Montgomery and worked as a vehicle driver and activities coordinator at two assisted living facilities for five years, as a bank courier for a company serving banks for one year and as inventory maintenance worker for grocery stores. Currently, he works as a courier for a national laboratory. With his own business, he measures race courses for runs to certify race courses for racing events for the U.S. Track and Field Association, and he also times races. Not only does he manage races, but he also participates in races. He has competed in ice skating, and in 1980, he first participated in competitive running and has completed16 marathons with his best time as three hours and 52 minutes. Marcus has participated in four Marine Corps Marathons. Marcus has placed in his age group in many divisions. He won first in his age division of age 70 in a half-marathon in Florence, AL. Now he works out almost daily at the Crump Senior Center. He also rides with the Montgomery
Motorcycle Club. In addition, his hobby is photographing at races.
Marcus concludes about his service in the U. S. Marines, saying, “You have to understand that I was a boy growing up in the 1950’s without having gone anywhere. Serving in the Marines really does mean, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine.’ Somehow America has lost the patriotic feeling like those of us who served and are proud of this country. I didn’t go to war. They didn’t send me. I served my country deliberately. In my mind, I know what it means to be a proud American. When I was teaching, each day my kindergartens classes would say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag and sing, God Bless America and the Marine Corps Hymn.”