County honors vets

Harlan County honored the county’s military veterans on Saturday with a ceremony on the courthouse lawn.

Harlan County District Judge Scott Lisenbee, who served as emcee for the event, introduced guest speaker John Dodd to those in attendance.

Dodd told the listeners about a pair of Harlan County natives who lost their lives in World War II when the Navy vessel they were on was sunk.

“One was Bertie Angel, he was a private,” Dodd said. “On that same LST with him was a guy by the name of Asher Webb. They were going from New York to Iceland to drop off some communications equipment and from there they were going on to England to drop off some troops.”

According to a U.S. Navy website, navy.mil, the first LST (Landing Ship, Tank) was commissioned Oct. 27, 1942. Nicknamed “Large Slow Targets,” LSTs saw action in every theater of World War II and performed multiple missions. Some served as motor torpedo boat tenders, battle damage repair ships, or aircraft engine repair ships. The LST-H provided immediate medical care facilities, evacuating over 40,000 casualties from Normandy alone. Other LSTs were converted to mini-aircraft carriers and actually launched fixed wing reconnaissance aircraft from their modified decks. This mission flexibility remains a hallmark of amphibious ships today.

Dodd explained the ship Webb and Angel were on was overcrowded with equipment and personnel.

“About 2 a.m., a German U-boat hit it with a torpedo,” Dodd said. “It hit the main engine room and the ship sunk within 15 minutes. Webb and Angel both went down with the ship. They never got the opportunity to return home.”

Dodd mentioned the large number of military personnel who were classified as missing in action (M.I.A.). He also talked about how some Vietnam era P.O.W.s were held in work camps in North Korea.

“As Americans, we’re taught to treat our prisoners with dignity and respect,” Dodd said.

Dodd said some of his best days were spent serving in the military.

“Today I tell you that our armed forces are strong, and they are capable of carrying out any mission that they’re ordered to do,” Dodd said.

The ceremony also included a 21-gun salute and guest speaker Jim Hill of the Harlan County Honor Guard.

Lisenbee also had some words for the crowd before the ceremony’s conclusion.

“We don’t teach the reverence for veterans that we should to our kids,” Lisenbee said. “They (veterans) don’t ask for a lot. They don’t want parades, they don’t want medals, but they do want your respect. They do want a thank you every now and then, and they are well deserving of that from us. If we don’t teach that to the next generation, nobody is going to…we need to respect these guys. We need to thank them, and teach that to the next generation.”

The ceremony concluded with a prayer, with many veterans then going to the Harlan Christian Church where a luncheon was provided for them and their spouses by Don’s Super Saver and Doss Fuelco Inc.

Don Parsons, owner of Don’s Super Saver, said he and Fuelco founder Rayburn Doss sponsored the luncheon to honor veterans.

The pair also sponsored a similar luncheon in Cumberland. Doss greeted veterans and their spouses at the Cumberland event, while Parsons hosted the meal in Harlan.

“Rayburn Doss and I have done this for the last two years,” Parsons said. “There’s nothing we have more fun doing than feeding the veterans and letting them know how much we appreciate them. Without our vets, we wouldn’t have anything, it would all be over.”