Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Honoring Our Hereos

 

August 1, 2021 | View PDF

Terrell Lamar Best: Age 95

Terrell Lamar Best served almost 32 months in the United States Coast Guard during WWII. His military occupational specialty (MOS) was Signalman Third Class. He received the Asiatic-Pacific ribbon with two bronze stars.

Best was born in Montgomery, AL, September 21, 1925, to his parents, Terrell and Louise Best. He was reared in Montgomery and graduated from Lanier High School in May 1943. After working at Panama City for about a month, he volunteered at age 17 beginning his military service July 30, 1943. He chose to serve in the United States Coast Guard after being encouraged by two of his friends who were already serving in the Coast Guard. He reported for duty at New Orleans, LA, followed by boot camp at St.

Augustine, FL, then to Egmont Key, an island near Tampa, FL, where he worked with small boats. Next, he completed amphibious training at Norfolk, VA. He then went to Pittsburgh, PA, where the Landing Ship Tank (LST) 787 had been made and where he joined the crew of the LST. After the crew checked out the equipment on the LST, they took the LST down the Mississippi River to New Orleans where the ship was outfitted with a mast and guns. They were joined by U.S. Naval Construction Forces, known as Seabees. Next, they cruised through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor, HI, followed by joining a convoy to Saipan, the largest of the Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific and then sailed among the Philippine Islands.

LST 787 was destined to go to Iwo Jima, a volcanic island occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Best served at Iwo Jima on the LST delivering Marines and supplies such as amphibious tanks officially designated as Landing Vehicle, Tracked (Armored or, LVT(A)s).

His crew served as a maintenance ship for the LVT(A)s and evacuated wounded. The IJA positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of tunnels. The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the battle. The five-week battle saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. The Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths, but uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, the American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese.

Best recalls the horrors of the battles at Iwo Jima, seeing many dead and wounded saying, “I was apprehensive when the Japanese artillery hit close to the LST. We could sit there and watch the battle when flame throwers were used by the Marines to get the Japanese out of the caves. I could see the whole beach head as well as an enemy airbase. The airfield was covered with the wreckage of Japanese aircraft. One Marine told me that more than 60 per cent of the Marines who had landed were now either dead or wounded. I could see the flag raising by the Marines at Iwo Jima. It looked like a match stick because I was so far away in the ocean.”

Best served as a signalman at Iwo Jima and Japan. After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, he was brought back to San Diego. Best was discharged from military service in April 1946 in New Orleans, LA. With a quiver in his voice and tears in his eyes, Best’s conclusions about his military service are, “When I was discharged, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I still have an affection for the Coast Guard, and I’ll always be proud of my service.”

Upon release from the military, Best returned to Montgomery, AL, and worked for a while with the AL Department of Transportation to check out sites for future construction of bridges. He attended the University of Alabama where he studied civil engineering. He then worked for his father in his engraving company that made plates for printing that were used in the publication of the Montgomery Advertiser. After the Montgomery Advertiser bought out his father’s business, he continued working in this business for over 30 years retiring in 1988.

Best and his wife, Ruedene, were married for 59 years before she passed away, and together they had two children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. They led in planning and organizing reunions of his LST 787 crew for 20 years. Best enjoyed going on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to visit the WWII Memorial. He has been an active member of Capitol Heights Baptist Church where he served as a deacon and also taught Sunday School for over 40 years. On March 15, 2020, the congregation honored him with a special time of tribute for his many years of Christian service. During his leisure time, he has enjoyed fishing, tennis and yard work.

Chief Master Sergeant William Joseph Heath: Age: 82

Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) William Joseph Heath served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force. His Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) were Airborne Radio Technician, Precision Measurement Equipment Technician and Management Engineering/Manpower Management Superintendent and Manpower Resource Manager. His awards, medals and ribbons included: Meritorious Service Medal with two devices, Air Medal with three devices, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor and three devices, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with six devices, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Viet Nam Service Medal with four devices, Air Force Longevity Service Award with five devices, Air Force Overseas Service Long Tour Ribbon, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon with two devices, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Republic of Viet Nam Gallantry Cross with palm and Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal.

CMSgt Heath was born June 30, 1939, at Webster, FL, to his parents, Alpha Lee and Cazzie Lou Pitts Heath, and he was reared in Orlando, FL. After graduating from Edgewater High School in Orlando June 5, 1957, he volunteered for military service.

After completing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), TX, he was assigned to Scott AFB, IL, to attend radio school. He was then assigned to Shaw AFB, SC, for four years. While at Shaw, he was on TDY deployments to Alaska, Iceland and Turkey. Next, he was assigned to Lajes AB, Azores, Portugal, for two years. He returned to the mainland and served at Langley, AFB, VA, where he was deployed on TDY to Okinawa, flying as an additional crew member on C-130 aircraft into Viet Nam and Thailand on resupply missions out of Clark AB in the Philippines Islands. After further service at Langley AFB, he was sent to Lowry AFB, CO, for Precision Measurement Equipment (PME) school for eight months. Returning to Langley, he worked in the PME Lab until transferring to Korat AB, Thailand, working in the radio field after extensive training. Before heading to Thailand, he had further training at Otis AFB, MA and Fairchild AFB, WA. For 11 months, he served at Korat AB, Thailand, with the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing. As an airborne electronics technician on the EC-121R aircraft, CMSgt Heath flew 85 combat reconnaissance missions over the war zones in southeast Asia out of Korat AB, Thailand, in 1968 and 1969. The EC-121R aircraft was an early warning and central radar surveillance sensor-monitoring aircraft. Returning to the United States, CMSgt Heath served three months at Stewart AFB, NY and was then transferred to Perrin AFB, TX, due to the base closure of Stewart. After serving at Perrin for 14 months, he was assigned to a level-9 electronics school at Keesler AFB, MS, for seven months. After graduation from that school, he then served 13 months at Forbes AFB, KS, with the radio shop of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing. CMSgt Heath then cross-trained into his third career choice, Management Engineering /Manpower Management, and attended a training course at Keesler AFB. He was subsequently transferred to Myrtle Beach AFB, SC, for only seven months before returning to Keesler AFB as an instructor at the school for three years. CMSgt Heath was then assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, serving on a Management Engineering Team for three years. Afterwards, he opted for reassignment and was sent to Hickam AFB, HI for four years. CMSgt Heath retired from military service at Maxwell AFB, AL, August 1, 1983.

CMSgt Heath continued his education while on active duty. He received two Associate of Applied Science Degrees from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management from Park University in 1979 and a Master of Arts Degree in Business Management from Central Michigan University in 1981.

Since his military retirement, CMSgt Heath worked in Montgomery, AL, for 10 years as a civil servant at Maxwell AFB, in Manpower Management at Headquarters Air University until August 1, 1993. He worked as a substitute teacher for the Montgomery Public Schools for one year 1997-1998. His Christian service to others at Frazer United Methodist Church is personified by his service as Director of Community Ministries for almost one year 1994-1995. He was a Lay Minister for three years calling regularly on people who were shut in due to illness, a pastor of Boylston United Methodist Church for two years 1995-1997 and a prison minister for Frazer UMC 1997-2010. At Frazer, he has served on the Board of Stewards, volunteered in the Frazer food service and served as a Lay Scripture reader. As a member of the Basic Bible Sunday School Class, he served as its treasurer for five years.

Since CMSgt Heath’s retirement from all employment in the autumn of 2010, he has enjoyed a brief time bowling and playing golf. He is a Ham (amateur) radio operator and is a radio-controlled model airplane enthusiast and a leather crafter.

CMSgt Heath and his wife, Delores (Dee), have been married 59 years, and they have three children, two grandchildren, two step grandchildren, one great-grandchild and two step great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling, and since her retirement in 2004, they have been on 19 ocean cruises, two river cruises, and several land tours across the USA.

CMSgt Heath’s reflections on his military service are, “The Air Force was a God-send for me. I had no real promising outlook as a high school graduate since I could not afford to go to college. The Air Force provided a way of life for me that I had planned on even before graduating from high school. I saw a lot of the world in my 36 years which I could never have done had I stayed in Orlando, FL.” He concludes that his military service benefitted himself and his country. He is proud of his service to his country and prays that he contributed somewhat to its well-being. He declares that we must all remain vigilant and steadfast in keeping America strong to maintain our blessed way of life.

LTC Arthur F. Millard

LTC Arthur F Millard served 24 years including four years in the U.S. Navy, four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and 16 years in the U.S. Army. His service included deployments to Okinawa, Vietnam and Korea. His Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) included serving as platoon leader, company commander and JAG attorney. His medals, awards and decorations include: U.S.M.C. expert rifle and pistol badges, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 device, Vietnam Service Medal with three stars, U.S.M.C. Combat Action Ribbon, U.S.M.C. Meritorious Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, U.S. Army Achievement Medal, U.S. Army Commendation Medal and U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters.

LTC Millard was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, to his parents, Martin and Oleta Millard. He was reared in Wichita, KS, and graduated from East High School in 1961 with honors. During his youth, he had a paper route, caddied at a golf course, worked on a worm farm, mowed lawns, conducted a city dog census and clerked in his father’s law office. LTC Millard attended Kansas State University where he received academic honors and participated in Army R.O.T.C. He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, and while there he was a member of the rifle team and led the team in participating in a national championship. Completing the rigorous engineering curriculum in 1966, LTC Millard graduated and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corps (U.S.M.C.).

His Marine Corps service began with his assignment to the six-month U.S.M.C. Infantry Officer Basic Course at Quantico, VA. After graduating, he received further operational training at Camp LeJeune followed by survival training at Camp Pendleton, CA. LTC Millard was deployed to Okinawa where he served as a platoon leader in the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade at Camp Hansen which supported movement of material to Navy ships bound for Vietnam. While there, LTC Millard won the first place trophy with his issued pistol in a shooting tournament with his Brigade.

In 1967, he was deployed to Vietnam where he led a platoon of Marines in the 7th MT Battalion in the RVN-I Corps area northwest of Da Nang, Dong Ha and other camps. His duty involved leading convoys hauling ammo, rations and supplies from Navy ships to the U.S.M.C. infantry and artillery units at Hoi An, Phu Bai, An Hoa, Dong Ha and other camps. While not on convoys, he was at Division Headquarters monitoring convoy radio traffic in anticipation of any needed fire support, and he served as a member of General courts-martial and as trial counsel in Special courts-martial.

In 1968 after leaving Vietnam, LTC Millard served as commander of a 330-man, recruit training company including 13 drill instructors at the U.S.M.C. Recruit Depot, San Diego, CA. He oversaw training and led his platoons in dress parades. He performed additional duties in courts-martial and giving legally-required military law training to recruits. His next assignment was overseeing marksmanship training for recruits and regular Marines at the Weapons Training Battalion, Edson Range at Camp Pendleton, CA.

In 1970, LTC Millard laterally transferred to the Corps of Engineers with orders to the Army Engineer Officer Advanced Courses at Fort Belvoir, VA, and graduate-level engineering courses at The George Washington University. He won first place in the Commander’s pistol tournament. After graduation in 1971, he assumed command at Ft. Bragg, N.C., of a 150-man engineer bridge company whose mission was to transport and to build bridges in a theater of operations.

Because the Army was experiencing a serous shortfall in military attorneys and was seeking qualified officers to attend law school and become JAG officers, LTC Millard was accepted by the Judge Advocate General, passed the Law School Admission Test and was accepted into Golden Gate University in CA with a branch at the Pentagon. Graduating in 1975 and passing the Bar, LTC Millard as a new JAG captain reported to the Judge Advocate General’s School at the University of VA and completed the six-month JAG Officer Basic Course.

His service as a JAG attorney encompassed service in CA and NV involving claims litigation dealing with Army land ownership and operations, medical malpractice at hospitals and motor vehicle collisions on streets and highways. In addition, he prosecuted courts-martial and advised special agents of the Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) in their felony investigations. In 1978, LTC Millard was assigned to Fort McPherson, GA, as Deputy Staff Judge

Advocate and Staff Judge Advocate supervising junior attorneys and administrative staff of enlisted and civilian specialists and supporting the base command and staff on legal matters. In addition, he was also a special U.S. attorney prosecutor for the U. S. Department of Justice, Northern District of GA.

LTC Millard then moved to the Contract Law Division of the four-star U.S. Army Forces Command overseeing legal aspects of contracts involving multiple billions of dollars. He completed the U.S. Army Procurement Course at Fort Lee, VA, as an honor graduate followed by receiving temporary duty orders to the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington, D.C. in preparation for further assignment as Commander, U.S. Armed Forces Claims Service in Seoul, Korea. There he led a team of attorneys and support staff working to administer and adjudicate property, injury and death claims against the U.S. Defense

Department including all service branches in Korea and in adjacent waters.

In 1983, LTC Millard returned to the U.S. to serve at the Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, GA where he supervised a team of attorneys and support staff in administrative law matters. In 1986, he retired from active military service there.

After military retirement, LTC Millard moved to Dunwoody, GA, where he practiced law representing business and individual clients in general litigation on state, federal, trial and appellate levels. He retired from his law practice in 2008.

LTC Millard has served as a Baptist church trustee, usher, youth leader,

Sunday school teacher, vacation Bible schoolteacher and youth baseball and basketball coach. In addition, he has served as a chapter leader for the John Birch Society and as a county voting poll worker. He is a life member of the National Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America and 50-year Life Member of the National Rifle Association.

LTC Millard and his wife, Sandra, have been married for 12 years, and they have five children and five grandchildren.

LTC Millard reflects upon his military service saying, “When I took my first oath of office in 1962, I pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; however, after leaving active duty, I learned that that the deadliest enemies are domestic and that they wage war continuously. In my 24 years in uniform, I had many able and helpful seniors, contemporaries and subordinates who taught me, inspired me and deserve the credit for my successes and accomplishments. Above all, I give credit and honor to the One above all who illuminated and guided my path; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His only begotten Son, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Jesus Christ, whose return to His throne on Earth is imminent.”

 

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