97-year old veteran of three wars honored for his service –
By Patricia Beech –
Photos by Patricia Beech and Mark Carpenter –
Harlan Plummer has seen and done more than most, and performed above and beyond the call of duty more than most should ask.
A veteran of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, Harlan fought in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War before retiring after 27 years of service. He was honored on Sunday, May 28 for his service to his country during Memorial Day services at the Locust Grove Cemetery in the Peebles community. The event was sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary from the Wallace-Thompson American Legion, Post 594.
Featured speaker, retired U.S. Army, Captain Paul Worley, spoke about Plummer’s military experiences – which involved combat and covert activities, as well as volunteering for dangerous work like testing ejection seats on fighter jets and living in artificial sub-zero environments to determine the odds of survival for downed pilots.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about Harlan’s service,” Worley joked, saying Plummer couldn’t talk about what he saw that night in 1947 in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico.
Worley said when he was a boy his father told him stories about Plummer’s incredible adventures and exploits.
“My Dad spoke of him with a lot of respect,” says Worley. “Harlan’s a humble guy whose done so much, I think it really tickled him to be honored.”
The tribute to Plummer, who is 97-years old, was also a sad reminder that with every passing year there are fewer and fewer veterans from the World War II era.
“Every year more of them leave this earth,” Worley said. “Events like this are important because they allow us to express our thanks and connect to that generation of people who did so much for all of us.”
The Young-Moore American Legion Post in West Union hosted memorial services on Sunday, May 28 at the Kirker Cemetery, followed by the services at the West Union Cemetery (Route 125), and at East Liberty (Lynx).
The Winchester American Legion Post 242 hosted services at in the Winchester Cemetery. Adams County Veterans Service Commissioner William Conn was the featured speaker, and the North Adams High School Band performed a selection of patriotic songs for the event.
Services at the Manchester Cemetery were led by American Legion Commander Terry Himes. The Matthews-Carter Legion Post 325 conducted the service which included a flag raising, the National Anthem, and the laying of the memorial wreaths. A Salute to the Dead was conducted by the Manchester Veterans Club, and followed by a firing squad salute and taps.
On Monday, May 29, the Charles H. Eyre Post 633 in Seaman hosted services at the Countryside Church, the Lawshe Cemetery, the Mount Leigh Cemetery, and the Tranquility Cemetery.
The Cherry Fork Memorial Day services on Monday featured the North Adams High School Band and featured speaker, retired Coast Guard Chief Msg. Sergeant Brian Seaman.
Seaman, who said his participation in the event took an unusual turn, shared his experience in a Facebook post which follows in part.
“Crazy Memorial Day speech story. About a month ago I was asked to speak at the Cherry Fork Cemetery Memorial Day ceremony. I was honored of course, and said yes. Cherry Fork is about 20 miles from my home, and I wasn’t familiar with many of the veterans interred at the cemetery, so I arrived about 25 minutes early and parked way up front from the service site. I didn’t have a specific speech written, just notes on what I was to talk about.
As part of my speech I was going to pick three or four veterans buried in the cemetery, point out their resting sites, and briefly describe when they served. As I got out of my car there was a veterans grave with a World War II marker and flag. The veteran was S. Sgt. Gerald Fulton, and I wrote in my notes he was a World War II veteran and passed away in 2004.
I walked around and wrote down a veteran named S. Sgt. Robert Foster. I was told Robert was already in the service when World War II began, and was in for the entire duration of the war. My final veteran I wrote down was Sgt. Frank Sparks. Frank was a Korean War vet. You gotta remember, I didn’t know any of these gentlemen or their families.
“During the welcoming to everyone, the emcee mentioned several of the talking points I was going to speak on. I was sweating, and thinking, “you are so in trouble now, Brian”.
I was introduced and began. I explained that many of us who were there knew why we were at the cemetery, but perhaps some young person would learn something, and perhaps someone may know the veterans I was speaking about.
I asked a young boy with a broken arm what his name was. Maddox, he said. I explained to Maddox that the people buried here were heroes, that they fought to protect our way of life. A little girl was sitting up front also, and I told her that in some countries little girls were not allowed to go to school. That’s why our deceased veterans are heroes – they fought so she could go to school. Here is where it gets crazy. I told her there is a veteran up where I parked, way over there named Gerald Fulton. I told her “Gerald didn’t know you, but he fought for you.” At that point someone said something and I said, “What was that?” The person said Gerald’s widow was sitting right in front of me. I was stunned, and nearly lost it right then. I got down on my knee and kissed her hand and thanked her for her husband’s service to our country. I think the crowd was also caught off guard.
I mostly recovered and mumbled through another topic, then I mentioned S. Sgt. Robert Foster, who was buried several graves behind me. Someone mentioned something, and I was again shocked. His widow was also sitting in the front row. I again went down on a knee and kissed her hand and thanked her for her husbands service. I asked if they wrote letters and she said hundreds.
By now I was thinking, “this is too coincidental”. So as I began wrapping up, and I again focused on young-broken-armed Maddox. I told him that these people I talked about are husbands and fathers, and I mentioned my last veteran, Sgt. Frank Sparks. I told them Frank was a Korean War veteran. A fellow standing behind Maddox said “Frank was Maddox’s great-grandfather!” Well that did it. I told Maddox his great-grandfather was a true American hero, and that he fought for his great-grandson before he ever knew him.
I had to wrap it up at that point, and thanked the crowd of nearly 200 for the honor of speaking to them. I said I was sweating what to go over, but I am convinced something beyond me was at that cemetery today helping me along.”