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Bethel Heroes Chapter of UDC honors local veterans
Doctor Thomas Barrett, who was a guest speaker. (Contributed photos)
Six local Veterans were honored, two posthumously, on March 14, 2013 at a Military Service Awards Bestowal Ceremony by the Bethel Heroes Chapter 636, United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Military Service Awards are an outgrowth of the Southern Cross of Honor bestowed on Confederate Veterans by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and have been established as a testimonial to the patriotic devotion of Confederate Veterans and their descendants. These awards may be bestowed on Veterans who have served our Country honorably in time of War or Conflict, and are lineal descendants of a Confederate Veteran. These Awards are Crosses of Military Service for World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Global War on Terror; the National Defense Medal; and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal.

The Bethel Heroes Chapter was privileged to honor five descendants of John Thomas Parker, a Confederate Soldier from Halifax County.  The 1850 Census shows that he was born around 1831 and, at the time of the census, was living with the Voilt and Hill families in Gates County, NC. By the 1860 Census, he was married to Martha Elizabeth Pittman and was living in Halifax County. When the War Between the States started, he enlisted at age 35 on July 16, 1864 in Company B, 44th Regiment, NC Infantry. He was present or accounted for until captured near Petersburg, Virginia on April 2,  1865. He was confined at Hart’s Island, New York Harbor until released on June 17, 1865, after taking the Oath of Allegiance.

Five of the Veterans honored by the Bethel Heroes Chapter were descendants of John Thomas Parker through his son, Walter Caleb Parker. A  World War II Cross of Military Service  Medal to Raymond Wilson Parker, Sr., Private First Class, United States Marine Corps and to Willie Smith “Billy” Parker, Private First Class, United States Army. These awards were awarded posthumously and were accepted by Ronnie Parker, son of Raymond Wilson Parker, Sr. and Martha Parker Worrells, daughter of Willie Smith “Billy” Parker.

Vietnam Crosses of Military Service Medals were awarded to George Cecil Parker, Master Sergeant, United States Marine Corps and to Velma Frend “Fess” Parker, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army Aviation.

A National Defense Medal was awarded to Ronald “Ronnie” Parker, Sergeant, United States Army, for his service during the Vietnam Conflict.

Last year, at a similar ceremony, two other descendants of John Thomas Parker were honored. James Arthur Parker, Command Sergeant Major, United States Army, received the Vietnam Cross of Military Service and his sister, Margie Parker Brantley, Captain, United States Air Force, received the National Defense Medal.

In addition to the Parker descendants, Bethel Heroes presented a National Defense Medal to Curtis Oliver Powell, Major, United States Air Force, for his service during the Vietnam Conflict. He is the great-grandson of Joseph Powell, who enlisted in the War Between the States on May 1, 1862 in Edgecombe County in Company B, 33rd Regiment, NC Infantry. He was wounded in the battle at Chancellorsville, May 1-4, 1863 and hospitalized in Washington DC. He was later sent to the Old Capital Prison in Washington DC. After a prisoner exchange, he was sent to the hospital in Wilson on September 27, 1863, where he worked as a nurse until he died in August 1864 from wounds received at Chancellorsville. He left behind a wife, Frances “Fannie” Braswell and 3 young children.

Guest speaker for the ceremony was Dr. Thomas Barrett, United States Navy, Retired, who spoke on an event he experienced during World War II which, like thousands of others, are almost forgotten or will never be known. In his own words, Dr. Barrett tells us the story. “This event  started in June 1940. That was the time my father took me, at age 18, down to the Navy Recruiting Center to enlist. He gave me $5.00 and wished me God Speed and good luck. From that point, I headed for 16 weeks of Boot Training. After Boot Training, I was assigned to a new U.S. Navy destroyer, called a tin can.

In September 1940 the USS Kearny, DD432 was fully commissioned for active duty with the U.S. Fleet. The Kearny made many trips with the fleets to England, Ireland, and Russia. German Submarine Patrols in the South Atlantic was also another assignment. From September 1940 to October 1941, just over a year, the Kearny was an integral part of numerous task forces in the North Atlantic. The task force was meeting in Nova Scotia to protect the convoys of merchant ships in the North Atlantic. Merchant ships from many friendly nations were part of these convoys. They all carried war supplies (from tanks to airplanes), most going to England. The U.S. was supplying war supplies to England and Russia before our entry into World War II.

When the convoy got a submarine contact, we would go to General Quarters and start dropping depth charges on the Nazi Submarines that were attacking the convoy. The weather in the North Atlantic in the winter was below freezing and the sea was rough. Sometimes the area between the waves, known as the shallow, was 40 or 50 feet below the waves. On October 16, 1941, the convoy was under attack and 3 out of the 64 merchant ships were torpedoed and sunk. The Kearny immediately began dropping depth charges and continued the barrage through the night. At the beginning of the mid-watch on October 17, a torpedo from a Nazi Submarine (U368) struck the Kearny on the starboard side and the fire room. The Kearny lost 11 men and 22 others were seriously wounded. But with lots of luck, outstanding seamanship and hundreds of drill practice, we survived, and after repairs, we returned and served until the end of the war.”

A reception was held after the program in honor of the recipients and their families.

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