RIPLEY – Come shake the hands of the last six WWII veterans of Tippah County. Don’t miss this valuable opportunity to meet and talk with men from the greatest generation.
Duane Bullard, a local historian and author, will host a social gathering for Tippah County WWII Veterans on Monday, Nov. 11 from 8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. at The Peoples Bank in Ripley.
WWII veterans, Andrew Carter, Roy Hodges, Carl Lee Nance, T.C. Mauney, Felix Jones, and E.J. Murley, will be honored at the affair. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited to attend to meet and talk to these veterans about their experiences and show their gratitude for their service.
“I want the public to come, shake their hand, and let them know that they are still remembered,” said Bullard.
Bullard has been a voice for WWII veterans and the sharing of their stories since 2004. Following the death of his dad, Herman Bullard, a WWII disabled veteran, Bullard remembered his promise to his dad to do something to honor him and felt like God was leading him to hold a matter in which veterans from World War II would be recognized.
In December of 2004, Bullard started his investigation and discovered 76 veterans still living in Tippah County. He researched to find as much information as he could about the veterans and was disheartened to find that 16 of the 76 veterans had already passed away by mid-January.
“I knew I had to act fast and get letters out to the 60 veterans still left,” said Bullard. Bullard sent out letters inviting the veterans to meet him and tell their stories, but got no response. Bullard was puzzled. “I did not understand why; I was just trying to interview them and get their stories out there so that their grandchildren and future generations would know of all they had done for us and what they had given up-- the sacrifices they had made,” explained Bullard.
Bullard sought out a fellow Rotarian, Raiford Long, who was a WWII veteran of the US Navy. “I knew he was one of my 60 veterans, so I asked him why he was not coming in and talking to me. He replied that he had never told anyone about it. He didn’t think it should be talked about. So, I explained to him about letting future generations know and hear his stories. I was not prepared for what I was about to hear. He agreed to come in and talk with me for about 10 minutes. Two and half hours later I had a video of him sharing his stories.
“He was my cheerleader from that point on and went out and recruited for me. I had five people the next few days ready to talk. I was overwhelmed listening to the stories. The veterans were emotional telling their stories of 60 years ago and I was emotional hearing the stories. I told my wife that these stories were going to kill me, I was just not prepared. I had to do a little soul searching and praying to prepare myself to be able to further listen to their stories. Wonderful stories, just amazing. I then told my wife that I couldn’t stop at 10 veterans, I couldn’t stop until I had them all. I was able to get 53 WWII veterans, six veterans totally refused. One wouldn’t tell his stories, he had such terrible stories, and that was Dr. Martindale,” said Bullard.
“After that I decided that I would do a banquet. I asked the veterans to bring their memorabilia. I could not believe we had about 100 yards of memorabilia. People from all over Mississippi attended the banquet. We had an attendance of over 800 people. People wanted to hear the stories,” said Bullard.
Bullard had not only honored his dad’s memory but in having the WWII veterans tell their stories, helped to save a part of history.
Copies of the videos documented by Duane Bullard can be found at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, and The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. One feature at The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum is that a person’s name can be entered and then his stories listened to.
Bullard encourages everyone to come Monday to meet and talk to some of the men from the greatest generation.