3 months ago

Valor’s Voice helps Alabama veterans visit National World War II Museum

NEW ORLEANS – Two days before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and on the day of President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, two Alabama World War Two veterans and their families got to visit the National World War Two Museum, thanks to the passionate work of Marshall County-based Valor’s Voice.

For the nation, it was a day when politics as usual seemed to take a break. But in this place that commemorates the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation, there is never a left vs. right divide. It is a place that takes you back to a time when there was only right vs. wrong – a time when the very fate of the world hung in the balance.

Yellowhammer News was on hand with the group from Alabama in New Orleans to cover the emotional trip, which started Tuesday evening with an explanation by Valor’s Voice founder and CEO Adam Ragsdale on what the organization does and why it does it.

Along with Ragsdale, WWII veterans Richard “Dick” German and Jack Pritchett, members of their families and two veterans serving as “chaperones” made the journey.

Valor’s Voice

The mission of Valor’s Voice is to ensure America never forgets what happened during the Second World War, premised on the three pillars of “Remembering, Restoring and Reuniting.”

Ragsdale said of the first tenet, “We think remembering is intentional.”

He explained that his daughter is a high school senior in Guntersville and only had a page and a half reference to the war in her history class.

“That was it,” Ragsdale lamented. “And, so my fear is that it’s going to be forgotten. I think if you’re not intentional about remembering, that’s what happens.”

So, while WWII veterans are still able, Ragsdale has made it his mission to bring them down to the museum as often as his organization can, starting with this maiden trip.

“We also do reunions,” Ragsdale added. “Plus, we archive stories for posterity.”

For Ragsdale, as one of the two chaperones phrased it, this is a “labor of love.”

And it has to be. Ragsdale is unpaid and overworked (he works a full-time job at Boeing in Huntsville while serving as pastor of a church in Gadsden as he runs Valor’s Voice by himself) but is also just about the most enthusiastic, caring organizational leader you will find in the state.

He reflected on the genesis of the organization, sharing that both of his grandfathers had been WWII veterans. While Ragsdale was able to hear about one of their experiences before he passed, Ragsdale said that he wished his grandfathers’ stories, memories and lessons could have been catalogued for future generations. From that thought, Valor’s Voice sprung.

The organization’s work could not come at a better time, too. Soon, if these stories are not captured, they will be lost forever. Veterans of the Second World War are passing away at an all-too-rapid rate, with survivors all being over the age of 90 now.

Eventually, in the next several years, the museum trips will transition from veterans to either middle or high school students from Alabama. But, until then, Ragsdale is eager to honor them and ensure their stories will live on well beyond their time on earth.

Visiting the museum

After settling into a hotel three blocks away in the Warehouse District on Tuesday evening, the group got to the National World War Two Museum ten minutes before it opened on Wednesday morning, eager to see as much as possible of the extraordinary multi-building complex that fills a city block and then some.

We were greeted by the sounds and sights of construction, with a new mega-addition to the museum starting to stretch towards the Louisiana sky already. Then, once inside, Pritchett and German, the two WWII veterans, received greetings befitting of their status as American heroes.

For those, that have not been, the museum entrance is styled to look like a typical 1940’s train station in which America’s veterans would have departed their hometowns to join the war. For Pritchett and German, entering the museum was truly like taking a trip back in time.

Adam Ragsdale addresses the group before they toured the museum. (S. Ross/YHN)

After the introductory stop past the museum entrance, Pritchett and German parted ways to embark on their own tours, matching the uniqueness of their experiences in the war.

Pritchett, who served in the Army’s 737th tank battalion, known as “Patton’s Spearheaders,” survived the Battle of the Bulge.

German was a submariner in the Navy during World War Two and, after getting an aerospace degree following that war, reenlisted as a fighter pilot to serve his country once again in Korea.

His first stop on his museum tour was the Boeing Center, which focuses on the various aircraft used in the war, as well as featuring the USS Tang Submarine Experience on the ground floor of the US Freedom Pavilion.

On the way from the Boeing Center to the Solomon Victory Theater, where we would experience the 4-D “Beyond All Boundaries” journey, German was stopped by a woman whose father had served in the war. She made German’s day, as well as his wife’s.

Such a simple display of appreciation by the woman made an extraordinary difference, with the gleam in German’s eye and the smile on his face telling the story more than words ever could.

A little bit later, Pritchett had an experience with admirers, as well.

At lunchtime, the group attended a special Christmas performance by the Victory Belles at the replica BB’s Stage Door Canteen. In between singing Christmas classics, the Belles brought Pritchett on stage, where they serenaded him and sent him back to his seat with significantly more lipstick on his cheeks.

When asked later that day whether he enjoyed that recognition, Pritchett immediately responded, “Oh lord, yeah.”

While these stand-out moments of recognition were gratifying, the entire experience was powerful for the veterans and their families. Because, at the end of the day, the museum and Valor’s Voice are shows of appreciation and respect to them. And even those closest to the veterans – their wives, children and grandchildren – said they did not nearly understand what they went through before the trip to New Orleans. Nor had they seen how it affected them.

“We’ve never seen him choked up like that,” two of Pritchett’s family members remarked afterwards.

Through alternating smiles and tears, laughter and hugs, Valor’s Voice brought these two families even closer together as Pritchett and German look back on the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

They were quick to compliment the “incredible,” “wonderful” Ragsdale for making this trip of a lifetime possible.

Where are we headed?

With reflection, too, comes perspective. As Ragsdale told Yellowhammer News the evening after the trip to the museum, America is at a pivotal point and the next generation of leaders must not forgo the lessons of the Greatest Generation.

He also said he was happy with the maiden trip and that he was already planning another one for Memorial Day.

“I just worry that we’ve got a generation that’s never going to know, they’re just not. And so, I think for me, this trip has validated the need to be very intentional with remembering moving forward,” Ragsdale outlined.

“Even the families, they said that over and over today – that they didn’t understand the scope of it. That, ‘he’s never really talked about it,'” he added.

It also gives context to the difference between that era and Americans today.

One WWII veteran from south Alabama even told Ragsdale one time that two men in his hometown died by suicide because they could not serve in the war.

“Because they couldn’t go,” he emphasized. “Just contrast that now with trigger warnings and safe spaces, and I don’t know what the answer is to make us have that mindset again. To go from that generation, who came out of the Depression with absolutely nothing – and again, you just don’t think about this stuff, [the veterans] were saying that all the deer pre-World War Two had been killed off because people needed to put food on the table so badly…. it’s little stuff like that. And now the biggest thing is does somebody have on a cap that offends me. That’s how different the 18-22 year-olds in recent generations have become.”

Ragsdale continued, “I don’t know. But my hope is that you can expose them to this perspective – if they are able to see why they get to use their freedom this way, who paid the price for them to live in a country that’s accepting of them, even if it’s goofy and even if it’s crazy.”

This was driven home by Mr. Pritchett, who recounted to his son how the trip had affected him emotionally.

“You know, when you’re at war and you’re 18 or 19 and you see medics working on your friends who’ve been blown all over creation, they’re carrying bodies out by the dozens, you just don’t think about mortality. But, I realized today that I’ve lived a good life. I’m in my 90’s. I was here with my son, my grandchildren and people that love me. And people have been shaking my hand all day. While my friends are still buried over there. They didn’t get a life. They didn’t get a college degree and a career and wives and kids and grandkids,” Pritchett outlined, saying it just hit him all of a sudden, some 73-plus years after the war ended.

Ragsdale remarked, “For those guys to have a moment with their families, where their families say, ‘That’s what it costed, that’s what it costs – when he was agitated when I was growing up, that’s why. When he would go quiet around Memorial Day, that’s why.”

“These guys being here today, as the last World War Two president is being buried, was truly special,” he concluded.

How you can help Valor’s Voice

While this maiden trip was a success, Valor’s Voice needs the help of Alabamians to get as many trips funded and completed in the next few years as possible. The next such trip, where veterans and loved ones will visit the museum in New Orleans around Memorial Day, is quickly approaching.

So far, Ragsdale said he has four more WWII veterans already lined up, with the hope of taking 20-30 total people on that upcoming trip. He is also expanding the opportunity to Gold Star Wives – those whose husband served in the war.

“We want to do this as much as we can,” Ragsdale advised. “It’s lit a fire with me again… and watching that today, while we can get them here, we’ve got to get as many as possible.”

If you feel so inclined, you can donate to Valor’s Voice here. Their work is 100 percent funded by everyday people and businesses across Alabama, with zero percent of donations going towards administrative costs or salaries.

Also, if you know of a veteran who served in WWII, you can contact Ragsdale so the veteran’s story can be archived and he can work on getting that veteran plugged into an upcoming trip. Valor’s Voice also archives stories of veterans from other eras, while helping with veterans in need that suffer from PTSD, ALS, problems with the VA, etc.

On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, it is good to know that Alabama veterans of World War Two are not being forgotten. And as long as organizations like Valor’s Voice are around, we will never forget.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

GE Aviation to expand 3-D printing facility in Auburn

Governor Kay Ivey announced Wednesday that GE Aviation has plans to invest $50 million into expanding the additive manufacturing operation at its facility in Auburn, which is the first site to mass produce a jet component using 3-D printing technology for the aerospace industry.

“GE Aviation is at the leading edge of advanced aerospace additive manufacturing, and the company’s expansion plans at the Auburn facility will strengthen its technology leadership position,” Ivey stated, via Made in Alabama. “We look forward to seeing where the great partnership between Alabama and GE Aviation will take us both in an exciting future.”

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As a part of the project, GE Aviation will reportedly create 60 jobs and place new additive production machines in Auburn, which will allow the factory to begin greater production of a second engine part by implementing the additive process.

The expansion will allow the Auburn facility to mass produce a 3-D printed bracket for the GEnx-2B engine program.

“We’re very excited for this new investment in our additive manufacturing operation here in Auburn,” said GE Aviation’s Auburn plant leader, Ricardo Acevedo.

He added, “Our success thus far is a testament to all the hard-working folks at this facility who are leading the way in advanced manufacturing. The future here is bright, and we’re glad to have such great support from the Auburn community and the state of Alabama.”

Instead of taking the more traditional route to produce a part, additive manufacturing uses a CAD file to grow parts by using layers of metal powder and an electron beam. It is a much quicker process and allows for more product with less waste.

“Additive manufacturing technologies are revolutionizing how products are being made in many industries, and GE Aviation is helping to drive that revolution in aerospace,” said Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

He added, “We welcome GE’s decision to expand AM activities in Auburn because this will solidify the Alabama facility’s position as a hub for next-generation manufacturing techniques.”

Before today’s expansion announcement, the Auburn facility was set to employ an estimated 300 people in 2019.

“We’re grateful for GE’s continued investment in our community, and we are proud to be the home of GE Aviation’s leading additive manufacturing facility,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “For years, Auburn has sought after technology-based industries, and this expansion is evidence of the value in that.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

13 hours ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall filibustered by Dem Senate minority leader

MONTGOMERY — A bill authored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. was filibustered by Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) Wednesday afternoon.

The bill, SB 22, has been carried over to a later legislative date yet to be decided.

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Singleton conducted several “small” filibusters, as he called them, leading up to debate on SB 22 when the chamber was confirming some of the governor’s various nominations.

Singleton said he wanted to slow down the bill’s passage and has managed to do so by at least one day.

When SB 22 came up as the first item on Wednesday’s special order calendar, Singleton launched into a mini-filibuster of just a few minutes before the Senate adopted a budget isolation resolution (BIR) on the bill, but in doing so, he threatened to filibuster for four hours on consideration of passage of the bill itself. He then began to appear to do just that after the BIR was adopted.

During his speech, Singleton claimed more “drugs and crime” come into the United States from Canada than Mexico. He also proposed that the federal government simply print more money to build the wall if it is needed and that walls should be built on both the southern and northern borders, rather than just the southern one.

After about 20 minutes of Singleton speaking passionately against SB 22, Marsh offered to carry the bill over to a later date so the rest of Wednesday’s legislation would not be adversely affected.

He emphasized that his bill does not divert tax money to help build the wall, but instead deals with money that taxpayers would be getting back anyway from the state. Individuals would voluntarily be able to send money already owed back to them by the state to a nonprofit named We Build The Wall, Inc.

Marsh also said SB 22 allows Alabamians to easily and directly send a message (through their monetary contribution) to the federal government and people around the nation – and world – that they support border security and President Donald Trump’s efforts. Marsh himself has made such a contribution previously, but his bill would make it easier for citizens to do the same.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Ivey on Common Core: ‘We should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state’

Governor Kay Ivey has released a statement on Senator Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama, saying, “I support Senator Marsh’s efforts to ensure that headlines about Alabama ranking last or close to last in education become things of the past.”

Marsh’s bill, SB 119, was advanced unanimously from committee Wednesday and will come before the full Senate on Thursday, with passage in that chamber expected. All 28 Republican state senators support the bill.

The legislature’s spring break is next week, and substantial discussion from the education community is expected to occur with Marsh over the break and heading into the House committee process.

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“Alabama has some of the greatest teachers anywhere, they do a fantastic job each and every day laying a strong educational foundation for the children of Alabama,” Ivey said. “I have supported our teachers by proposing pay raises each of the last two years and expanding programs that have proven successful. As a former educator and president of the Alabama State Board of Education, I know how important it is to have good course materials to teach.”

The governor concluded, “Efforts like this should not be taken lightly, and I believe we should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state. I support Senator Marsh’s efforts to ensure that headlines about Alabama ranking last or close to last in education become things of the past.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Dale Jackson: The ‘clean lottery bill’ is not clean, nor a lottery bill

There was hope that the Alabama legislature would be dealing with a simple and non-complex lottery bill this legislative session. This was false hope.

Alabama Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) touted his lottery bill as a bill that would simply give Alabama voters an opportunity to vote on a lottery. He wasn’t trying to solve the state’s economic ailments. He wasn’t hoping to appease every group in the state with some piece of the pie. He wasn’t creating a new spending obligation. All he allegedly wanted to do was give the average Alabamian an opportunity to buy lottery tickets in their home state and send the benefits to the state’s coffers.

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Simple. Easy. “Clean.”

But it was not to actually be. Instead, this clean bill provides a quasi-monopoly for certain individuals who already have gambling interests in place. McClendon says this is to protect the jobs at these facilities by giving them the ability to have new “Virtual Lottery Terminals.” The terminals are really just slot machines with extra steps, and some of these folks already have experience running this type of business because they have been running these quasi-legal machines for years.

These entities want this legalized and they want to stop any competition from springing up. This is a completely reasonable position for them.

Guess who has a problem with this? The Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians released the following statement:

We appreciate Sen. McClendon’s efforts to bring the question of whether the state should have a lottery to the forefront of this legislative session. However, the bill introduced today does not fit the definition of a “clean bill.” It does not give citizens an opportunity to cast one vote on one issue — whether we should have a traditional lottery in our State. Instead, the bill is cluttered with provisions that will expand private gaming operations in a few parts of the state owned by a handful of individuals. It also demands that any vote on a lottery include a vote on video lottery terminals, which are also commonly known as “slot machines.”

They are not wrong, but no one should be sympathetic to this argument. They want their own monopoly on slot machines. This is a completely reasonable position for them.

Neither position is reasonable for the state of Alabama to take. The state of Alabama should either offer a legit clean bill with no expansion/codification of existing gambling or open the door for others to enter the free market.

If the legislature thinks these types of gambling are good for the state, then it needs to regulate it, limit it and give other parts of the state and other operators an opportunity to take part in the benefits. Let Huntsville, Birmingham, and Mobile enter a developer bidding for gambling facilities.

Alabama legislators clearly want to address this in this legislative session. McClendon’s bill is not the way to do it.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

 

15 hours ago

Ainsworth looks forward to Common Core repeal – ‘Damaging legacy of the disastrous Obama administration’

Count Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth as an adamant supporter of eliminating Common Core in the state of Alabama.

After Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) filed a bill to do just that, Ainsworth told Yellowhammer News that he “look[s] forward to dropping the gavel when the repeal of Common Core passes the State Senate.”

This is expected to occur Thursday after the bill unanimously was advanced from committee on Wednesday.

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Ainsworth said in a statement, “I believe Alabamians should determine the curriculum and standards for our schoolchildren based upon our available resources, our needs, and our first-hand knowledge of what makes Alabama great. We should not rely upon some out-of-state entity or liberal, Washington, D.C. bureaucrats to determine our standards, and we certainly should not continue embracing this most damaging legacy of the disastrous Obama administration.”

“Sen. Marsh and the co-sponsors of his bill should be commended for working to end this unnecessary Obama-era relic, and I look forward to dropping the gavel when the repeal of Common Core passes the State Senate,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn