‘Love of country’ honored at Veterans Memorial brick-laying ceremony

An Army JROTC cadet from Batesburg-Leesville High escorts Doris Reynolds to the spot where a brick was placed in her honor, close to where a similar brick memorialized her late husband Redd. (Staff photos by Tony Baughman)

For 68 years, just as it says in the classic country anthem, Doris Reynolds stood by her man, Clarence T. “Redd” Reynolds.

Early last Saturday morning, Mrs. Reynolds knelt with family and cadets from the Batesburg-Leesville High School Army JROTC and planted a brick in memory of her beloved husband at the Armed Forces Monument in front of the town’s National Guard Armory.

It was an emotional tribute to a man whose obituary called him “the Bob Hope of the National Guard.” A short while later, Mrs. Reynolds’ devotion to her husband’s calling was celebrated with her own brick in the monument.

“It is an honor for him to be remembered like this,” she said at the end of a ceremony attended by more than 50 well-wishers. “He was an honorary member of the National Guard up here. He lived here about his first 13 years, then the family moved to Lexington. He loved this community.”

Mr. Reynolds, who died  last January at age 91, was among four deceased veterans and citizens memorialized at the annual event, a service project of the high school’s JROTC Panther Battalion. Two other living veterans also were recognized with bricks in honor of their service.

“The people being recognized today have one thing in common – that is, love for their country and service for their community,” Col. Jonathan Robinson, senior Army JROTC instructor at the high school, said during the solemn observance at the monument.

Twice annually, the JROTC unit sells and places bricks at the semi-circular memorial garden, which features granite markers commemorating all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. During Saturday’s ceremony, every veteran sitting in the audience was recognized, asked to stand as each military branch’s anthem was played.

The hour-long ceremony hit its emotional climax when a lone bugler played “Taps” as four men of uncommon service were memorialized:

  • James Elmore Eargle, a Saluda County native who served in the South Carolina Army National Guard from 1956 to 1964 and later worked as a firefighter;
  • Army Pfc. Roy G. Matthews, who died in the Thuan Thien Province of South Vietnam in May 1969 and is buried in the Philippi Baptist Church cemetery in Saluda County;
  • Fowler W. Cary Jr., who died last February, a Columbia-area businessman and avid pilot known as “Big Dog” who supported the local JROTC program, volunteered for Veterans Airlift Command and its mission to transport combat veterans to medical care facilities, and was an honorary Fighter Squadron Commander at Shaw Air Force Base and McEntire Air National Guard Station; and
  • Mr. Reynolds, who served in the Army’s 78th Division during World War II in 1945-46 and worked in Armed Forces Radio at Berlin, Germany, before settling into a long career at WBLR 1430 AM radio station in Batesburg-Leesville.

Mr. Reynolds was lauded for creating the Caravan of Stars, a traveling music and dance troupe that entertained troops at military bases in Georgia, Virginia and Mississippi. That selfless outreach and his distinguished military service earned him the Order of the Palmetto, the State’s highest civilian honor, in 1987 and the comparison to Bob Hope, who famously entertained military personnel at bases around the world.

“He would call all these young people, and they would just display their talents,” said Mrs. Reynolds, who used to travel with her husband and stood backstage dutifully while he and the musical guests performed for the troops. “Most of the time, we went to Fort Stewart, Ga., where it’s hot and humid.”

Later in the ceremony, Mrs. Reynolds was called up along with family members to receive a brick in her honor, as Col. Robinson marveled at her nearly seven decades of devotion to her husband and their Caravan of Stars outreach.

“Being on a base, you look forward to the excitement of being entertained. I’ve been in that situation,” Col. Robinson said. “It’s a lot of work when you create something, and they did this for 30 years. We recognize Tech Sgt. Reynolds; however, we know that right hand was you, Mrs. Reynolds. We appreciate you.”

Also honored with bricks during the ceremony were living veterans Sgt. Matthew R. Barr, who has served in the S.C. Army National Guard since 2014, and former 122nd Engineer Battalion Company Commander Rickey Chapman, who served from 1977-1981.

The Batesburg-Leesville High Army JROTC plans another ceremony in the spring to recognize more veterans at the Armed Forces Monument. Anyone interested in purchasing a brick in memory or honor of a veteran is invited to contact the high school.

Story by Tony Baughman / Posted on October 3, 2019