A Salute to Veterans

Garden & Gun readers share tributes to those who served

In honor of Veterans Day, November 11, we asked Garden & Gun readers to share their stories of family members who spent time in the military. Here are eleven of those touching tributes to veterans, from a Virginia dad (and a dog) who served in Europe during World War II to an immigrant who provided essential help to our country after September 11.

Henry H. Hogan, U.S. Army Signal Corps

“This is Dad and his dog, Felix. Dad found Felix as a puppy while serving in Europe during World War II. After the war ended in Europe, Dad’s unit, along with Felix, was transferred to the Pacific theater, where both served until the war’s end. When the unit shipped back to the U.S., Felix was right on board. The captain of the ship got word of Felix and invited this honored battle hero to dinner each night at his table. Once back in the States, Dad sent Felix home to his dad in Ringgold, Virginia. When Dad got home, Felix had switched his allegiances to my grandfather.”—Mike Hogan, son

Joseph Eugene Spencer, U.S. Marine Corps

“My grandfather was a police officer in Kingsport, Tennessee, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II. He served in the Pacific theater. While he was deployed, my grandmother moved with my mother and aunt to southern California because my aunt had asthma so bad. The advice then was to move to a drier climate. When my grandfather returned from the war, my mother said, ‘Daddy, you’ve got to come see the beaches!’ My grandfather replied, ‘Honey, I’ve seen enough beaches to last me the rest of my life.’”—Jennifer Staton, granddaughter

Katherine Lacey, U.S. Army

“My grandmother, Kate Lacey, served in World War I. She was a nurse in a field hospital in Europe. She returned from the war and became an an anesthetist, all before she married and raised a family with her husband in rural Alabama outside of Birmingham. In the late 1960s, she was one of the first female veterans to become a patient at the Veterans Hospital in Tuscaloosa. She also served her country before she ever had the right the vote.”—Julie Kerlin, granddaughter

Vic Bezjian, U.S. Air Force Reserve

My father was a refugee from the Middle East. He fled when he was nineteen and came to the U.S. as a student. He had no family, no money, and no understanding of the language. It took him six years, but he finished college and was so grateful for the opportunity to be in the U.S. that he wanted to stay and give back to the country. He enlisted in the Air Force and spent ten years as a non-commissioned officer before going to officer candidates school. When 9/11 happened and the Department of Defense found out he could speak, read, and write several Middle Eastern languages with a Lebanese accent, he was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency. His first mission was tracking down the terrorists who blew up the USS Cole. He then went to Africa to help set up Africa Central Command. From there, he was deployed to the Congo to track the Lord’s Resistance Army. But his most impactful deployment was in Darfur, Sudan, as the first non-uniformed American to assess the genocide for the U.S. government. After thirty-nine years, he retired from a distinguished career.”—James Bezjian, son

William E. Wofford, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps

“This is my father, who was from Cartersville, Georgia, and a B-17 pilot. He served in North Africa and Italy during World War II. He flew fifty-one combat missions during this time. Just before going overseas, my dad, along with his copilot and best friend, who was also from Cartersville, flew their B-17 at 500 feet down Main Street at 12 noon on Sunday just as church was letting out. They made one more pass and were then off to war. The local newspaper ran an article: ‘Billy Wofford Showed the People of Cartersville His B-17.’”—Bill Wofford, son

Harold Hickman, U.S. Army

“This is my dad, Harold Hickman, of Calabash, North Carolina, at about the end of World War II. He landed on Iwo Jima right after the Marines ‘secured’ the island under withering fire. He was a medic. For the first three months, they slept in foxholes every night and the Japanese bombed them every clear night. He was there until about three months after the war ended. He was a farmer before he went in the Army and died a farmer. On his last day before he succumbed to old age and a long hard life, he planted his last collards. We laid him to rest two weeks ago today. He was ninety-two.”—Ron Hickman, son

Tom “Sparky” Boodry, U.S. Marine Corps

“Boodry was a true American patriot who loved this country and considered it an honor and privilege to serve each day, for twenty-two years. Boodry retired as a lieutenant colonel in Pensacola, Florida, where he started his aviation career at Naval Air Station Pensacola.”—Sally Boodry, widow

Howard Chesley Inches, U.S. Merchant Marine

“My daddy volunteered to serve in the Merchant Marines in World War II. Merchant Marines Liberty ships carried supplies to the troops and were the target of Nazi U-boats. They suffered the highest casualty rates in the war, but those Merchant Marines who served in WWII did not receive any veterans benefits until the 1970s, when many, like my daddy, had already passed away. He was wounded by a German bomb while on shore leave, perhaps when this photo was taken. He had a wife and two small children when he volunteered, and I am proud of his service.”—Kathleen McClellan, daughter

Patrick Ryan and Connie Trisdale Ryan, U.S. Navy

“My parents, Pat and Connie Ryan, met in Naples, Italy, where they were stationed with the U.S. Navy. Pat was a submariner and Connie was a yeoman. After getting married, Pat was commissioned as an officer and Connie moved into the ‘toughest job in the Navy’ when she left the service and became a Navy wife. (The photo shows them at their wedding, which took place in the middle of their lunch break—the only time they were able to take away from work.) Pat went on to serve as a surface warfare officer and then as an intelligence officer, retiring in 1998. After almost thirty years of combined military service, Pat and Connie settled back in Tennessee, Connie’s home state, with their two kids. In retirement, Connie and Pat have both continued their commitment to public service in their local community through involvement in civic organizations like the American Legion and Rotary International.”—Colleen Ryan, daughter

Epifanio Gonzales, U.S. Army

“My father served during World War II. He was in combat in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. In the photo, my father is receiving the Silver Star from General Keyes in 1944.”—Alex Gonzales, son

Eugene B. Sloan, U.S. Army Air Corps

“Gene Sloan, who was from Clinton, South Carolina, served during World War II as a navigator in the B-25 Mitchell bomber. He flew forty-two missions as a member of the 500th Bombardment Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group (activated in Columbia, South Carolina, in November 1942), based in New Guinea, the then–Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and finally the Ryukyus at the end of the war. After the war, Gene briefly attended law school at the University of South Carolina. Around 1949, he became the editor of The State Magazine, and later served as a general assignment and courtroom reporter at The State during the turbulent 1960s. He covered the trial of a conscientious objector, Howard Levy, at Fort Jackson, and visits to South Carolina by Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and other civil rights leaders of the day.”—Mary Roby, daughter