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Honoring Our Heroes

Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Gerald Cooper (94)

Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Melvin Gerald Cooper completed twenty-five years seven months and twenty-six days in the U.S. Navy (Active and Reserve) and the U. S. Air Force. Upon discharge his Military Occupational Specialty was Seaman First Class, Airman First Class and Lieutenant Colonel.

Lt Col Cooper received the following medals, awards and decorations: WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal with One Bronze Service Star, Air Force Service Longevity Award with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Lt Col Cooper was born September 30, 1927 to his parents, Melvin L. Cooper and Lillian Haynes, in Knoxville, Tennessee. He worked as a newspaper delivery boy from the age of 12 until 15 and then learned to be a salesman for men's clothing at Poor, Cox, Baker and McCally. As a youth, he became a Christian and taught Sunday School at age 14 in Second Methodist Church in Knoxville. He graduated from Young High School in May 1945.

Lt Col Cooper joined the U.S. Navy at age 17 as a Seaman Apprentice, but he had to wait until his graduation from high school to begin his service in San Diego. He was discharged from active duty in the Navy on August 7, 1946 and remained in the Navy Reserve until August 1, 1951.

During the Korean Conflict, Lt Col Cooper was called back into active military service. Transferring from the Navy, he began service in the U. S. Air Force. His first assignment as an Airman First Class Senior Clerk was in Washington, D.C followed by service at Warner Robins Army Air Depot, Georgia. He accepted a Commission as an Air Force Officer in 1953. He was deployed to Guam where he decommissioned a command, decommissioned Distant Early Warning Line Stations and served at a Communication Station in Japan and the Judge Advocate Corps in the Philippines. Lt Col Cooper then served at the University of West Virginia as the professor of Cadets preparing officers and non-military students for active duty. For one year, he attended the Air Force Command School at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL. Then his assignment was at the Pentagon with the Air Force Legislative and Liasion for President Lyndon Johnson's administration. After Johnson left office, Lt Col Cooper was assigned to seven members of Congress for three and one-half years. His final assignment was with Headquarters AFROTC at Maxwell Air Force Base until his retirement on October 31, 1972.

While in the Navy, Lt Col Cooper earned a Young High School diploma in 1945, and he received a Bachelors Degree in 1950 and a Juris Doctor Degree in 1950 from the University of TN. While in the U. S. Air Force, Lt Col Cooper earned a West Virginia University Master of Arts Degree in 1961, a Masters Degree from the Air Force Command and Staff College in 1964 and a Master of Science Degree in Public Administration from George Washington University in 1964.

After retiring from the military, Lt Col Cooper started Cooper Real Estate and then served as the first Executive Director of the new Alabama State Ethics Commission in 1973. He was selected among 59 applicants to set up an Ethics Office for the State of Alabama after a tough Ethics Law had been passed by the Alabama Legislature following the Watergate scandal involving U.S. President Richard Nixon. He dedicated himself to ensure that ethical conduct was the best way and the only way to make Alabama better. He went into the position to ensure that every person who held a government position would not use their office for their own personal gain. While serving as Execution Director of the Ethics Commission, he averaged 27 speeches per year going to any organization that contained public officials who were covered by the law. Today, the federal government has an ethics law, and all 50 states have some type of ethics laws. The individuals who now are heads of Ethics offices meet once a year. From 1974 to 1994, he served as Executive Director for the Alabama State Ethics Commission. After leaving the Alabama State Ethics Commission, he ran unsuccessfully for the Alabama Secretary of State.

After retirement from employment with the State of Alabama, Lt Col Cooper began to teach for the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Troy University. He received a telephone call from an organization that worked with the U. S. State Department asking him to attend a meeting in Washington D.C. He agreed and found that the company had a contract with the U. S. State Department assisting the U. S. regarding a new Constitution for the nation of Macedonia. This request had been made shortly after Macedonia's separation from the Soviet Union. The request contained a statement which called for a new Constitution to contain wording that was in effect an Ethics Section. Cooper's name had been recommended. He made the trip and signed a contract to travel to Macedonia and write an Ethics Law. He spent four months with an excellent group of professional people, and he was able to convince the officials to install an Ethics code in the new Constitution of Macedonia. He made many trips throughout Macedonia giving presentations to explain what an Ethics Section was using excellent local translators and actual examples of Alabama Ethics Commission Opinions, convictions, fines and honest conduct within Alabama government and codified in the law. The Ethics portion is still in the Macedonian Constitution.

Lt Col Cooper has been recognized for his leadership and service. In 1978, he was selected as the Alabama Administrator of the Year by the Montgomery Chapter of the Alabama Society for Public Administration. In 1983, he received the Common Cause Public Service Achievement Award, and he received the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws 1987 C.O.G.E.L. Award. In 1987, he was selected as the State of Alabama Executive of the Year by the State Capital Chapter of Postpartum Support International. In 2006, he received the Alabama Senior Citizens Medal of Honor. In 2009, he was named the Baptist Church Layperson of the Year by Samford University. On December 6, 2021, he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award in Ethics and Law by Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker at the A More Perfect Union Freedom & Justice Leadership General Assembly.

Lt Col Cooper and his lovely wife, Dolores (Burleson) were married almost 70 years before she passed away on January 14, 2018. They had three children. In the past, he has enjoyed reading, writing, teaching, golf, yard work, and a good game of checkers.

Lt Col Cooper’s family has a rich history of military service. His brother, Fate Cooper; his daughter, Melanie (Cooper) Papke and her husband, Carter served in the U. S. Navy. Lt Col Cooper reflects upon his military service by saying, “In servant-leadership, one must strive our upmost to do what is moral, ethical and legal.”

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Staff Sergeant Carl F. Gulledge (86)

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Carl F. Gulledge served 10 years in the United States Army and two years in the U. S. Army Reserve. His Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was Light Infantry Rifleman. He received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his services during the Korean War.

SSG Gulledge was born November 25, 1935, in Birmingham, AL, to his parents, Carl F. Gulledge Sr. and Margaret Ruth Gulledge. He was reared in Montgomery, AL, and he graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1950 at age 16. He enlisted in the U. S. Army Infantry December 7, 1952, completed16 weeks of Basic Training at Camp Gordon, GA, and was sent to Ft. Lewis, WA. Beginning January 15, 1953, landing at the port city of Bosun, Korea, SSG Gulledge served with the 24th Infantry Division in Korea for 13 months where he served as the sergeant of his platoon. He had the gruesome task of recovering the dead bodies of his fellow Army comrades that had been covered by snow. After leaving Korea, he was given 10 days of leave from the Replacement Depot at New Jersey followed by a second deployment to the Emery Barracks at Wurzberg, Germany for three years. This was the site of a ball bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany that was heavily bombed by the Allies during WWII. He was then sent to Ft. Riley, KS, where he served until his discharge in 1962. He then re-enlisted and joined the U.S. Army Reserve until 1964.

After his military service, SSG Gulledge returned to Montgomery, AL, where he worked as a Montgomery policeman briefly for 6.5 months. In March 1956, he married his wife, Betty Jo, and they were married 17 years until she passed away. They had four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He worked with infrared pictures at night to find leaks in commercial and government property for 21 years selling his business, BUR Systems, and retiring in 1996.

SSG Gulledge serves people through his membership in the Rigby Street Missionary Baptist Church of Montgomery, AL. He is the manager of the Food Ministry there. The Church obtains food from the Montgomery Food Bank, and under his leadership, food is cooked and delivered to low-income people especially the elderly. On a regular schedule, he and eight other members prepare and deliver food. He also sets up the Lord’s Supper for services at the Church. At age 15, SSG Gulledge was taught to cook by his mother, and he completed training at the Culinary School of America in Atlanta, GA, in 2015.

SSG Gulledge is a member of the American Legion Post 210 in Montgomery. His conclusions about his military service are, “Serving in the military was the greatest excitement and experience that I have ever had. I made a lot of friends.” Where else can you get shot at and still survive?” More than 40,000 Americans died and over 100,000 were wounded during the Korean War.

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Lee Roy Knight

Lee Roy Knight served four years in the United States Navy during the Korean War. His military medals, awards and decorations include: the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Knight was born February 22, 1934 to his parents Jim and Ina Knight, in DeKalb, GA, and he graduated from DeKalb High School. He began serving in the U. S. Navy March 26, 1953, and he completed Basic Training at the Naval Base San Diego, CA. He served on the USS Seal in the Pacific Theater. His work involved security at the Atsugi Naval Air Station (NAF), Japan. The Imperial Japanese Navy constructed the base in 1938 to house the 302nd Kokutai, one of the Navy's most formidable fighter squadrons during World War II. Aircraft based at Atsugi shot down more than 300 American bombers during the fire bombings of 1945. NAF Atsugi was a major naval air base during both the Korean War and Vietnam War, serving fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft. The Seabees Navy construction battalion, came to the base in 1950 and prepared it for re-opening that December as Naval Air Station Atsugi.

After serving in Korean War, Knight returned to DeKalb, GA, and he worked at Kraft Foods for 45 years. He and his wife, Bonnie, were married for 21 years, and they had three children, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Knight is still very patriotic. He recalls the sad, unpleasant job of loading body bags onto DC3 and DC4 airplanes. He reflects on his military service saying, “I would not want to get in war again. I was proud to serve.”


Master Sergeant (MSgt) Fenton Wesley Johnson

Master Sergeant (MSgt) Fenton Wesley Johnson served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force. His Military Occupational Specialty Code (MOSC) was Computer Systems Superintendent. He received the following decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign ribbons: Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Air Force Longevity Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and Royal Vietnam Campaign Medal.

MSgt Johnson was born August 4, 1936 in Tupper Lake, New York, to his parents, William Chester and Ellen Ruth Johnson. He was reared there and graduated from Tupper Lake High School in 1954. He started an apprenticeship in carpentry when he was thirteen and worked with his father and two older brothers in construction and carpentry. He attended Clarkson Technical College in Potsdam, New York for one year where he studied engineering.

MSgt Johnson volunteered and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force October 9, 1965, and he completed 11 weeks of Basic Training at Sampson Air Force Base, N.Y. While waiting for an assignment he worked in the base woodworking hobby shop. He was then sent to Kelly A.F.B., TX, and worked in automated accounting using the I.B.M. keypunch system for one year. His next assignment was an unaccompanied tour to Pepperell Air Force Base, Newfoundland for 18 months working in personnel, payroll and engineering accounting using the keypunch system. Then he was transferred to Larson A.F.B. Moses Lake, WA, working in the maintenance and personnel areas where he trained other enlisted personnel in using the keypunch card system in accounting for four years. Next, he went to Plattsburg A.F.B., NY, for four years. At Plattsburg, he was involved with secret level work monitoring and reporting Missile status to higher HQ. He was assigned additional duties as the disaster control NCOIC following extensive training in disaster recovery. His next assignment was at McDill A.F.B., FL in the command and control programming section. He served additional duties as NCOIC for the Bold Shot Brim Fire War Games inspection team on four exercises. He was then assigned a second unaccompanied tour to the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand during the Vietnam War where he supervised the punch card accounting system for one year and where he reached the rank of Master Sergeant. His final assignment was as a software programmer in the Civil Engineering Programming Section at Gunter A.F.B., AL, for four years during 1972-1976. This work involved developing programs and computer technology for 132 Air Force bases around the world as well as serving as technical support to these bases following a computer system failure. MSgt Johnson completed 13 years of work punch card machine environment and suffered hearing loss from the noise of the machines. MSgt Johnson attained the 820th Strategic Aerospace Division 95 Percentile Club by getting the highest possible score on the Specialty Knowledge Test on the computer system programming. He completed 21 Air Force training courses, which is equivalent to a Master’s Degree. He retired from military service at Gunter A.F.B. May 6, 1976.

After his military retirement, MSgt Johnson worked for the Tennessee Welfare Information System in Nashville for five months. He then came to Montgomery, AL and worked for the Alabama Retirement Systems for 21 years first as a programmer and then as an Information System Manager. Using the G.I. Bill, he received a B.S. Degree in Computer Information Science in 1979 and a Master’s Degree in 1983 in Computer Information Science. He retired from his state position in 1998.

MSgt Johnson and his wife, Genie, have been married 65 years, and they have four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She was a special education teacher for 28 years. As a cabinetmaker, using his carpentry skills, he maintains a woodworking shop designing and creating furniture, which he usually gives to his relatives and friends. He has been a leader in Cub Scouts, Webelos and Boy Scouts in Florida and with the Alabama Tukabatchee Boy Scout Council. He also taught computer science at Troy State University. He served as a soccer coach referee and as the District Commissioner of Soccer for the Greater Montgomery area. Both of them have been involved in teaching youth how to bowl through the American Jr. Bowling Congress. For the past 14 years, they have served as volunteers with the Montgomery Police Department. He serves as the patrol coordinator with volunteers who check on houses when owners are on vacation, and she works at the front desk of the Police Department. They are members of the Providence Presbyterian Church of Montgomery.

MSgt Johnson’s conclusions about his military service are, “It was very satisfying, It taught me a lifetime career in computer technology and computer systems management. Not only did it give me a chance to serve my country but also an opportunity to become a true leader. It let me carry on what my father and older brothers had started in their military service since I was the youngest in the family.”



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