Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
An Army veteran known for two combat milestones in Vietnam — firing the first and the millionth round of artillery for his battalion — celebrated his 90th birthday as Wilson saluted the troops on Sunday.
Coy C. Crosby lived in Walterboro, South Carolina, and was drafted during the Korean War. Korea, he said, was “tough, sloppy and cold.” He received the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in Vietnam.
“They fired a mortar round and shrapnel got me,” Crosby explained.
His distinction of firing the first and millionth rounds for the 1st Battalion, 8th Field Artillery was recognized in a 1989 ceremony in Hawaii when Crosby retired from the Army with 27 years of service.
“They had a parade for me, 15-gun salute,” he said. “I asked them what I did to deserve it, and they didn’t tell me. They made me command sergeant major of the whole division.”
Shaking hands with fellow veterans following the Wilson Committee on Patriotism’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, Crosby said he was honored to be recognized for his service.
“This is great,” he said. “I don’t have no complaints.”
Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice ending World War I. In 1938, President Calvin Coolidge designated Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, and the national holiday became Veterans Day in 1954.
Wilson Times Co. Chairman and CEO Morgan Dickerman III, a member of the patriotism committee, shared Wilson’s World War I history during the Sunday afternoon ceremony on the Wilson County Courthouse plaza.
“Wilson also stood tall for our flag in World War I,” he said. “Wilson’s Josephus Daniels, who has a local history plaque down the road, was secretary of the Navy. Wilson farmers became prosperous from cotton and tobacco sales during the war. Farmers gave piles of tobacco to benefit the Red Cross.”
Dickerman displayed historical documents including a draft notice distributed in Wilson. The local National Guard unit was called up and sent overseas with the Army’s 13th Division. He also read the names of Wilson troops who died during World War I. The first casualty, Robert B. Anderson, is the namesake of Wilson-based American Legion Post 13.
“Black and white Wilsonians enlisted,” Dickerman said. “Sixty-two Atlantic Christian College men registered. Wilson’s Greek-Americans became concerned when their homeland was invaded in 1916. Wilson County women also proudly served in uniform. Fourteen Wilsonians were already in the Navy at the time.”
Wilson joined the world in cheering the war’s end on Armistice Day. Dickerman read a dispatch from the Times — then an afternoon newspaper — published on Nov. 11, 1918, reporting that townspeople shot an effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany.
“Everybody was up soon after the announcement was made, and a figure of the Kaiser was hung up at the intersection of Goldsboro Street and Nash and was riddled with bullets,” the Times wrote. “The town is wild with excitement.”
A SALUTE TO VETERANS
While the armistice anniversary was a focal point, the annual Veterans Day service honored all retired, active-duty and reserve military service members.
Patriotism Committee Chairman E. Ray Chambers opened the ceremony. Junior ROTC units from Fike, Hunt and Beddingfield high schools participated in posting, retrieving and retiring the colors.
Committee member Jacqueline Knight led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Torry Winston of Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church sang the national anthem. Debra Deaton, vice chairwoman of the Committee on Patriotism, honored prisoners of war and those missing in action with an explanation of the POW/MIA table setting.
“I get a lot of chances to stand on this courthouse square and welcome different organizations to our city, but none, none, makes me feel any better in my heart than being here today,” said Mayor Bruce Rose. “This is a very important day. We are honoring some people who are very special — our veterans. If it weren’t for our veterans, and I don’t have to tell you this, we would not have the opportunities we have in our great country today.”
Ottine Miller, president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 13, placed a memorial wreath in front of the Wilson County veterans memorial. The New Hope Elementary School chorus performed patriotic songs.
After a benediction from James A. Faison, the patriotism committee’s chaplain, the Wilson County Veterans Honor Guard fired a rifle volley salute, and Jerry Howell of American Legion Post 13 closed the service with a bugle performance of taps.
“I haven’t missed one of these in I can’t tell you when,” said James C. Little, a retired Air Force master sergeant who served in Vietnam. He attended with his son-in-law, fellow airman and Operation Desert Storm veteran Randy Ruffin of Sims.
Ruffin said patriotism has increased and public perception of veterans has improved since returning Vietnam troops were jeered and spat on.
“I don’t think they’re perceived as well as they should be, but I see more respect walking around,” he said. “If they know you’re a veteran, I get more thank-yous than I used to. I think a lot more people are starting to understand what the military’s doing.”