Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Honoring our Heroes

 

August 1, 2020 | View PDF



Major LeonArd Norman: Age 71

 

Major LeonArd Norman not only valiantly served for four years in the U. S. Army, he also served 25.5 years as a policeman in Montgomery, AL, where he earned the rank of Major. His military medals and awards include two Purple Hearts, the Army Commendation Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with “V” Device and Oak Leaf Clusters, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Bronze Star with “V” Device, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Service Combat Veteran Medal.

 

Norman was born December 1, 1948, in Fulton County, GA, to his parents George and Annie Ruth Norman. He graduated from Washington Center High School in Atlanta, GA, and worked as a radio announcer until he was drafted in February, 1967, into the U. S. Army. Norman entered military service at Ft. Benning, GA, and completed Basic Training with the Infantry at Ft. Dix, NJ. He had a brief tour at the Panama Canal, completed paratrooper training at Ft. Benning and was then deployed to Vietnam. He served at Bein Hoa Air Base, received further training and worked with the 25th Division at Cu Chi where he served with the long range reconnaissance team in sensitive activities. Norman served one year plus some days in Vietnam where he was twice wounded resulting in his being discharged in 1971.

 

After discharge, Norman was hospitalized in a VA Hospital in San Francisco for a while before returning to Montgomery, AL, to work as a policeman in Montgomery, AL, until 2002. Norman has continued to work as a radio announcer and talk show host since 1971. He has a fine baritone singing voice and possesses gifts in speaking and writing poems and short stories. He attended college at Auburn University studying communications and mass media and at Troy State University at Montgomery majoring in secondary education and also studying law enforcement and criminal justice. Norman is a motivational speaker on a variety of 30 subjects, a gospel preacher, a very active leader in community organizations and a strong, personal advocate for veterans assisting them in obtaining benefits that they deserve. He is an active member of Chapter 607 Vietnam Veterans of America. Norman’s personal life includes three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

 

Norman has strong feelings about his service in the U.S. Military saying, “Being in the military meant that it established a position of honor, integrity and love of country. It took on the responsibility of being one of the great defenders of Old Glory, our flag. It established commitment to discipline that allowed one to flex wings, to see the world and to allow one to expand one’s psychic and not just to live in a little planet of Montgomery, AL, but to the planet called the world. It allowed you to expand one’s horizon.”

 

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Joseph Simon: Age 95

 

Joseph Simon is a WWII U. S. Army veteran who served as a combat engineer in New Guinea and the Philippine Islands. His medals and awards include: Asia Theatre of Operations, Asia Pacific Theatre of Operations, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal and World War II Victory Medal.

 

Simon was born May 29, 1925, at Demopolis, AL, to his parents, Harry and Ruth Simon. At age five, he moved to Montgomery, AL, where he graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1943. One week after graduation, he was drafted into the U. S. Army reporting for duty at Fort McClellan, AL. He was sent to Fort McPherson at Atlanta, GA, for evaluation to determine his assignment in the Army. Simon completed Basic Training at Camp Beale, CA, where the 2nd Armored Division was headquartered followed by additional training in maneuvers at the Mohave Desert in CA. Having had some experience in the AL Highway Department training as an engineer assistant, his Military

 

Operational Specialist (MOS) was as a weapons sergeant and as a demolition expert. Simon was sent to the Pacific Theater in August, 1944, where he participated in the combat battles of removing the remnants of the Japanese forces in New Guinea. Simon traveled on a Landing Ship Tank (LST) for 11 days and nights from New Guinea to the Lingayen Gulf at Luzon where he was involved in blowing up bridges and rebuilding pontoon bridges to help the Infantry to get equipment across rivers. He also had guard duty with machine guns on the perimeters. Joseph remained at the Philippines until after the Japanese surrendered August 15, 1945, and he was discharged from duty February 14, 1946, at Camp Shelby, MS, at the rank of Staff Sergeant.

 

Simon’s conclusions about his military service are, “It means a lot to me. I have a lot of memories both good and bad. It is something that I am proud of having served because I think that the people who served during WWII are no better than those who are serving now, but they were a lot younger and a lot less prepared than those who go into the service now.”

 

After release from military service, Simon’s civilian life included starting a family, completing his education and working with companies in AL and FL. Simon returned to Montgomery, AL, where he married Johnnie Hogue, and they were married 43 years until she passed away. They had four children, four grandchildren and nine great-grand-children. Simon worked as half-owner of the Riverside Heights Grill in Montgomery, AL, for three years. Using the G.I. Bill, Simon attended Huntingdon College where he had a double major in History and in Business Administration with emphasis in accounting. Selling his interest in the Grill, he went to Jacksonville, FL, working for General Electric as an expediter in the apparatus division getting equipment from the factory to the job site at the Indian River Reservation which is Cape Canaveral today. Simon returned to Montgomery where he worked for 40 years as the Secretary-Treasurer and Controller at the Southern Sash Supply, a company which sold widows and building materials. Then Simon moved to Destin, FL, where he operated the Beachside Café as the President and Manager for one year. In 2013, Simon retired and moved back to Montgomery to assist his brother who was in ill health. Simon served as a charter member of the American Veterans (AMVETS) Post No. 29 in Destin, and he enjoyed fishing and swimming and playing golf until he reached age of 86.

 

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David Payne: Vietnam Veteran: Age 70

 

David Payne is a U.S. Naval Seabees veteran who served in Vietnam. He is a veteran of the Alabama Army National Guard and the Alabama Air National Guard, and he was attached to numerous Special Forces including 20th Special Forces in AL, 82nd Air Bourne, 101st Screaming Eagles, and Marine Corps for 20 years in active duty and in a National Guard component. He is dedicated to serving veterans assisting them in navigation of the VA systems of benefits. He received awards throughout his service.

 

David Payne was born December 14, 1949, in Montgomery, AL, to his parents, Dave and Ruth Payne, and the family moved 19 times before he was 16 years of age because of his father’s employment with the VA and Social Security that required frequent moves. Payne attended high schools in Verbena and Montgomery, AL.

 

In 1967 at age 17, Payne joined the U.S. Navy and completed Basic Training at the Naval Training Center in San Diego and the Marine Base at Camp Pendleton, CA. He then went to the Seabees Base at Port Hueneme, CA, where he attended the Class-A School for 22 weeks learning how to handle heavy equipment. Payne was then attached to other branches of the military in remote, jungle areas of Vietnam. He was part of the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion known as the Seabees, and his unit was the MCB-8.

 

Payne was deployed to Vietnam for two and one-half tours for a total of 15 months during 1968-1969. At Vietnam, he went to Da Nang, Camp Eagle, Camp Evans, Hue, Rock Pile, Phu Bai, Ben Hoa and Long Binh. He served in A Shau Valley and the Alamo along the Dragon’s Tail in the Ho Chi Minh Trail where he worked building an air strip and a helicopter pad for a Special Forces camp for several weeks. His Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) was equipment operator going into key jungle locations where he was engaged in building helicopter pads, airfields, hospitals, dispensaries, schools, bunkers, slip-trenches and fighting positions as well as putting in concertina wires and mines. His unit was also involved in destroying military equipment rather than sending it back to America.

 

Payne’s unit came under attack several times by mortars which were referred to as harassing fire. His foot was injured when he stepped on a booby trap, and he also received an arm wound from a hot round; however he never received a Purple Heart because he was not in a secure area where medics were available to document such injuries, and he did not think that he merited a Purple Heart. Payne’s conclusions about his service in Vietnam are, “I am a firm believer that I was there for a purpose. I did my job. I served. I fought. I was wounded. I think that I made a difference.”

 

Returning to Alabama, Payne remained in the Inactive Reserves for four years suffering from PTSD during this time. Payne then joined the Alabama Army National Guard with 95 Bravo scoring well on the ASFAB resulting in his serving with the Military Police (MP’s). He then switched to the 187th AL Air National Guard, and he retired in 2003.

 

Payne and his wife, Sylvia, have been married 42 years, and they have two children and five grandchildren. Payne has served as the President of Chapter 607 Vietnam Veterans of American for most of the 27 years of its existence.

 

Payne’s holds deep convictions about American veterans’ deserving unending assistance from its government stating, “The service members who served overseas in harms’ way should never be treated as second-class citizens. The U. S. government should take care of them for the rest of their lives because of what they have endured and for the blank check that they signed when they entered the service.”

 

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