Take time to honor our veterans

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2005

Private First Class Hinton Rayford Bryant was a proud man.

Reared on a farm in the Drake’s Crossroads community of Northampton County, Ray (as he was known to everyone) spent the majority of his days facing the north end of a southbound mule. In other words, he was a farmer.

Little did he know that all that walking over the fertile soil of Northampton would later come in handy.

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Fresh out of Jackson High School in 1942, Bryant received a call from a relative he never knew n “Uncle Sam.” Seems that Sam needed some help overseas in a fight against the Germans and the Japanese.

Ray Bryant was willing to help.

Training in the Florida heat for what was later to be a deployment to the Philippines, Bryant’s life took an abrupt turn when the Army changed its mind and shipped him to the bitter cold of Europe.

On Christmas Day, 1944, Bryant and thousands of other soldiers boarded a transport ship in the New York City harbor. Their eventual destination was the Ardennes Forest on the German/Belgium border. There, Bryant entered one of the bloodiest conflicts of World War II n the Battle of the Bulge.

As a member of the 87th Infantry Division, part of General George Patton’s famed Third Army, Bryant was just one of 600,000 American troops (more men that fought at Gettysburg) to take part in the battle.

Despite snow and sub-freezing temperatures, the Americans stood their ground and prevented the Germans from reaching their objective – that of reaching the sprawling Meuse River on the fringe of the Ardennes.

The battle ended on Jan. 25, 1945. In its wake, 19,000 Americans lost their lives. Another 23,500 were captured. Ray Bryant was not listed in either category.

He came back to Northampton County, safe and sound, and later married Blanche Joyner Bryant of the Ashley’s Grove Community. It wasn’t until 60 years later than God decided to take him home.

Tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 11, is Veteran’s Day, a day to pay honor and respect to those brave men and women whose service should never be forgotten.

I will pay honor to PFC Hinton Rayford Bryant. He’s my dad and despite his death in June of last year, I remain a proud son n so honored that he put his life on the line over one-half century ago in order to preserve the freedom we all enjoy today by living in the United States of America.

Nobody is asking much of you tomorrow, but you can at least stop your daily grind long enough to utter a silent prayer and thank all those men and women who were and remain to be the guardians of our freedom.

Locally, there are several Veteran’s Day tributes planned for Friday.

In Ahoskie, Wal-Mart will host an 8 a.m. service that includes the Hertford Co. High School Junior ROTC presenting the colors followed by a guest speaker and refreshments.

Two hours later, a Veteran’s Day parade begins in downtown Ahoskie. That event, plus a ceremony at No Man’s Land Park following the parade, is hosted by Ahoskie American Legion Post 102.

In Murfreesboro, a 10:30 a.m. service will be conducted at the Town Hall on Broad Street. Navy Commander Joseph G. Klein will serve as the guest speaker.

Also in Murfreesboro, a military memorabilia display at the William Rea Museum should be of great interest.

There, a collection of artifacts from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War will be on display from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The museum is located at the corner of Williams Street and Fourth Avenue.

Over in Jackson, Northampton County will continue its traditional Veteran’s Day salute during an 11 a.m. ceremony at the courthouse.

In Bertie County, veterans will continue their time-honored tradition of placing American flags at the gravesites of their comrades whose final resting places are located in the Edgewood and Hillcrest cemeteries.

No matter what the circumstance in which they served; no matter if that service came in war or peace n our veterans richly deserve our utmost praise and respect.

Make sure you do your part tomorrow to honor those freedom fighters.