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History Corner By Pat Ross & Fran Snead

October 24, 2018

“Not Just Names on a Wall”

By Pat Ross, Anne Copeland and Fran Snead

The War Room located in the back of the building at Bassett Historical Center is quite an important room.  For many researchers who visit the Center and who are researching the military records and the wars in which their ancestors fought, this is the place to research.  For other visitors, they want to know of the different wars in which the men and women fought and in which some sacrificed their lives so that we can live in the United States of America.  Items that go along with stories of displays are in this room and uniforms of World War I, several for World War II and of each branch of service are also on display throughout the building.

Our staff learns sometimes from the visitor, listening to them tell of his or her ancestor who fought in the American Revolution, the Indian Wars or the War of 1812.  The Civil War, or theWar Between the States, is always discussed as our collection is the third largest in the Commonwealth and some of our books are ones that are hard to find.  An article on Burrell Francis Sisco that we wrote recently discusses his service in the Spanish American War.  We were so pleasantly surprised when someone called us to say that her great uncle had also served in that war as Mrs. Gloria Hodge-Hylton gave us a bit of history of W.C. Spencer who also was instrumental in starting the Imperial Savings and Loan. World War I and World War II are always researched and there are scrapbooks to help find information and sometimes photographs and clippings of especially World War II soldiers.  

If it were not for the men and women who loved their country and who fought for their country, where would America be today?  Many times Veterans who returned home were not treated as they should have been treated.  They were and still are the recipients of Agent Orange or PTSD or something else as a result of an illness that plagued them for the remainder of their lives.  We can’t forget the many Veterans who committed suicide because they simply could not forget.

Anytime that Bassett Historical Center has the opportunity to honor or memorialize Veterans we try to do so.  On Veteran’s Day 2016 an event was held at Bassett Funeral Service to dedicate a bench that was placed at the Center to celebrate our Veterans who served in the Korean War and those who were in the DMZ Conflict.  Five names were for the DMZ Conflict, while 120 names were for ones who fought on Korean soil from Martinsville and Henry County, plus those who had ties to Henry County.

On Veterans Day this year, Sunday, November 11 at 2pm, an event will be held at HJDB Event Center to honor all Veterans, those who came home, those who lost their lives fighting for our country, and those who are MIA/POW.  During this time, we will also dedicate a monument that will be placed at Bassett Historical Center to honor the men who fought in Vietnam, both those who came home and those who were killed in action.  There are a total of 345 names of men on the monument from Martinsville-Henry County and 26 of those men were killed in action.   This project has been a wonderful community effort for the Bassett Historical Center and the Veterans’ organizations that came together to have this monument built with community help.  This event will be open to the public.

Among the soldiers who were wounded, several were killed in action never to return home.  A helicopter crash in South Vietnam claimed the life of Army Lt. Douglas Lee Foley of Ridgeway, Virginia.  Lt. Foley, the helicopter pilot, was in control of his helicopter when the fatal crash occurred on September 2, 1965.  Lt. Foley, 30 years old, had served in the United States Army for 12 years.  He was born in Henry County to Richard Lee and Zelma Eva Whitlow Foley on July 15, 1935 and lived in Henry County his entire life.  Before joining the Army, he attended Martinsville High School.  He married Elenore Gansler and they had one daughter, Katherine.  Douglas Lee Foley was buried with full military honors in Roselawn Burial Park.  Lt. Foley was the first soldier from Henry County to be killed in the war.  Lt. Foley was not the only area soldier to fight in the Vietnam War that did not return home to his family and friends.  He is one of twenty-six soldiers with ties to Martinsville and Henry County that was killed.  The other twenty-five are:

Sp 4 Lonnie Douglas Alley (Army) was born on March 4, 1945 to Lonnie and Dorothy Austin Alley of Martinsville.  He died on March 26, 1968 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Sgt. Lonnie Allen Brooks (Army) was born on February 9, 1948 to Joseph and Wilmoth Jean Fralin Brooks of Bassett. He died on May 3, 1968 and is buried in the Henry Memorial Park.

Cpl. Frank Joseph Bowles (Marines) was born on November 14, 1943 to Frank and Nellie Grace Stone Bowles of Bassett.  He died on July 9, 1967 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park.

Sp 4 Frederick Curtis Bullington (Army) was born on December 14, 1945 to Adeline Fulcher Bullington Scearce of Spencer.  He died on May 30, 1966 and is buried in Stella Christian Church Cemetery.

Sp 4 Jerry Allen Dillard (Army)was born on November 4, 1947 to Horatio and Edna Lee Scales Dillard of Ridgeway.  He died on October 16, 1968 is buried in the Eden Garden Cemetery.

Cpl. Samuel Harrison Easley II (Army) was born on August 5, 1945 to Samuel and Roxie Easley of Bassett.  He died on May 28, 1968 and is buried in Graves Knob Cemetery.

Pfc Johhny Michael Hairston (Army) was born on February 6, 1947 to Johnny Kit and Hattie Savannah Gibson Hairston of Martinsville.  He died on November 23, 1966 and is buried in the Hairston Family Cemetery.

Pfc  Larry Davis Hatcher (Army) was born on May 12, 1946 to Herman and Inez Davis Hatcher of Martinsville.  He died on April 11, 1968 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park.

LCpl Robert Vernon Holland (Marines) was born on February 11, 1947 to Drury and Elizabeth Holland of Martinsville.  He died on June 4, 1968 and is buried in Danville Memorial Gardens.

Pfc Louis Allen Jefferson (Army) was born on March 26, 1945 to Reeves and Annie Gravely Jefferson of Martinsville.  He died on Jun 11, 1966 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park. 

Sp 4 Lewis Dean Lamkin (Army) was born on March 23, 1948 to Robert and Mary Elizabeth Osborne Lamkin of Collinsville. He died on May 25, 1968 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park.

Sp 4 Lewis Randolph Lovell, Jr. (Army) was born on February 5, 1947 to Lewis Randolph Lovell and was the stepson of Frances M. Lovell of Martinsville.  He died on June 6, 1968 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park.

LCpl Charles Edward Manns (Marines) was born on December 4, 1946 to George and Sallie Kellam Manns of Ridgeway.  He died on July 7, 1967 and is buried in Old Mayo Baptist Church Cemetery.

Sgt. Alphonso S. Martin (Army) of Martinsville was born on July 5, 1945.  He died on February 2, 1968 and is buried in the Antioch Christian Church Cemetery. 

Pfc Harry Pemberton Martin (Marines) was born on September 10, 1945 to William and Pearl Martin of Martinsville.  He died on June 9, 1968 and is buried in Meadow Christian Church Cemetery.

Sfc Linwood Dwight Martin (Army) was born on September 18, 1937 to Dorsey and Daisy Davis Martin of Bassett.  He died on March 22, 1968 and is buried in Sherwood Burial Park. 

Cpl Calvin Wetzel Ramsey (Army) was born on January 29, 1949 to William and Mabel Foster Ramsey of Bassett.  He died on August 8, 1970 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park.

Sp 4 Toney Elwood Seay (Army) was born on July 2, 1948 to Tony and Margaret Phillips Seay.  He died on September 15, 1969 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Fireman James Allen Souther (Navy) was born on March 4, 1953 to James and Eliza Johnson Souther of Ridgeway.  He died on June 15, 1971 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Pfc Bernard Allen Sowder (Army) was born on October 4, 1947 to Fird and Goldie.  He died on January 4, 1970 and is buried in Union primitive Baptist Church Cemetery.

Major Gordon Elliott Stone (Air Force) was born on October 24, 1930 to Dillard and Lucy Turner Stone of Bassett.  He died on May 21, 1972 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Cpl Clovis Bernard Walker (Marines) of Martinsville was born on November 2, 1949.  He died on June 30, 1969 and is buried in a family cemetery in Fieldale.

Sgt. Morris Alfred Whitehead (Army) was born on August 14, 1947 to Morris and Lucille Bondurant Whitehead.  He died on February 2, 1968 and is buried in Roselawn Burial Park.

Pfc David Wayne Wilson (Army) was born on October 7, 1946 to David and Evelyn Mae Hollandsworth Wilson of Bassett.  He died on May 17, 1969 and is buried in Old Center Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery.

Sgt. Samuel Earnest Witcher (Army) of Martinsville was born on September 18, 1945.  He died on July 4, 1967 and is buried in Danville National Cemetery.

This wall is the attempt of the Martinsville-Henry County Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Memorial Committee to honor these soldiers as well as all of the Vietnam Era Veterans.  We appreciate and thank all soldiers who served and are serving in the military so that we don’t have to.  These are not just a collection of names on a wall, but we hope that they serve as a tribute to those who gave so much and in some cases were not appreciated for what they went through for us and for our country.