Alabama Airmen Participate In Veterans Day Events

BIRMINGHAM, Ala -- Airmen from the 117th Air Refueling Wing participated in multiple Veterans Day events here on November 10 and 11.

The airmen attended the National Veterans Award Dinner on November 10 and the World Peace Luncheon on November 11 at the Sheraton Hotel. They also marched in the nation's oldest Veterans Day parade on November 11 in downtown Birmingham. 

World War II veteran and USS Indianapolis survivor, Edgar Harrell, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Ronald E. Rosser spoke at the dinner.

The Indianapolis delivered parts to Tinian Island for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The vessel had 1,196 service members aboard when it was struck by torpedoes fired from the Japanese in World War II.  Only 317 survived.

Harrell abandoned ship and swam constantly with only a Kapok life preserver for more than four days. The survivors faced shark attacks, dehydration and hallucinations of islands.  They were saved by chance when a pilot saw oil slicks in the water and bodies spread for more than a 75 mile area.

A book titled, "Out of the Depths," depicts Harrell's experiences during this time.

Rosser received the Congressional Medal of Honor June 27, 1952 for his actions above and beyond the call of duty. His citation states that he helped lead an assault, exhausted all ammunition and acquired more ammunition multiple times while advancing on the enemy.  After being wounded over the course of his advancement, he returned to rescue service members more seriously injured than himself while coming under enemy fire.   

"I don't think I'm a brave man. I was responsible for a lot of people," said Rosser. "That day there were 170 of us and every man was killed, wounded or missing.  The men were lying in the battlefield and the Chinese were trying to swarm down and kill them and I stood in their way."     


"Most people don't know what they went through," said Staff Sgt. Chad Carroll from the 117 ARW. "It is important to hear the stories so the stories won't die."

The community lined the streets cheering for veterans during the parade. Airmen from the 117 ARW assisted in the event. Staff Sgt. Amanda Downey, from the 117 ARW, helped coordinate the reviewing stand reception area.  This is the area where distinguished visitors gather to watch the parade.        

"I love serving our veterans," said Downey. "We were able to speak to two veterans from World War II and make sure they were all right.  We have better conditions being in the military now; it used to be a lot worse."

Carroll, who also volunteered to be a judge, appreciated those who came in uniform and participated. He thought they represented the unit well.

"It's the best they have ever marched," said Carroll.  "I hope more people come out next year.  It would be nice to see the entire base."