6 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

9 mins ago

Byrne: Percentage of illegal border crossers ‘might be part of a terrorist effort’ — ‘We have to be very vigilant’

In the very early stages of the 2020 U.S. Senate campaign, immigration has become one of the primary focuses, especially given the statements of one of the contest’s apparent front-runners, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

One of the concerns is that among the mass influxes of illegal border crossers could be individuals that look to inflict harm on the country, particularly those from Middle Eastern nations coming in through the porous U.S.-Mexico border.

In an appearance on Huntsville’s WVNN, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said it is not out of the realm of possibilities such bad actors could be coming into the United States through Mexico.

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“What we know is is that unlike ten years ago, 80% of the people coming across the border are from three countries: They’re from El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras,” Byrne explained on Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show.” “They are families and unaccompanied minors, and they’re just overwhelming the system that we’re having so many of them, and they’re incredibly needy. But in addition to that 80% of the people that fall into that category, there are some onesies and twosies of people that might be – we can’t necessarily prove it, might be part of a terrorist effort. So, we have to be very vigilant about that.”

“Now the truth of the matter is in that other 20%, you’ve got people coming from all over the world,” he continued. “They found the body of a young Indian girl, a Hindu Indian girl, the other day out in the desert. So, we know they’re getting them from everywhere. And some of these people are coming across because they want to be part of America. And some of them are coming across for really bad reasons. Some of them are drug traffickers. Some of them are human traffickers. And we are concerned, though we can’t give you hard evidence of this – that some of them may be part of a terrorist effort in this country.”

The Baldwin County Republican U.S. congressman explained the difficulties in identifying those coming into the country seeking asylum as who they claim to be, which is problematic in determining potential threats.

“I mean, just because you’re from a Middle Eastern country doesn’t necessarily mean you’re part of a terrorist network,” Byrne said. “So there is a lot more that goes into it, and I’ve got to be careful what I say because of the classified briefings I’ve had, but there is a lot more that goes into this to try to make a determination who is this person. And part of the problem, Jeff, is the unknown. Because how can we know who these people are? They say, ‘My name is so-and-so, and I’m from this country, and I’m here because I’ve been persecuted in my country.’”

“Well, how do we know that?” he continued. “And how do we – in some of these countries like Syria, we have no way to go back and check that out because their communities are gone? The people we would go to, to try to verify who they are – are in some refugee camp somewhere. It’s just the impossibility to have full information on these people that is such a problem. And so you just can’t let whoever you want to come across the border. You have to have a very rigorous system to determine who are these people and whether they should be here or not.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

13 hours ago

Auburn’s Bruce Pearl slams AOC for ‘concentration camps’ tweets: ‘Attempt to rewrite the Holocaust’

Auburn University head basketball coach Bruce Pearl is not tolerating what he views as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) “attempt to rewrite the holocaust” after she compared current immigration facilities in the U.S. to “concentration camps.”

Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday tweeted, “This administration (the Trump administration) has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.”

“This is not hyperbole,” she claimed. “It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”

In a follow-up tweet the same day, she doubled down and blamed others for taking offense to her original tweet.

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“And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps,” Ocasio-Cortez asserted.

“Concentration camps are considered by experts as ‘the mass detention of civilians without trial,'” she concluded. “And that’s exactly what this administration is doing.”

In a direct response to Ocasio-Cortez, Pearl tweeted, “Tell that to the people who died and survived those concentration camps that they don’t know the difference.”

“Never again is reserved for the 9 million people murdered including 6 million Jews,” he added. “The comparison is attempt to rewrite the holocaust! Stop!”

Pearl this spring became the fourth Jewish head coach in NCAA history to take a team to the Final Four. He was the first president of the Jewish Coaches Association.

This came as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski made similar “concentration camps” comparisons on Tuesday, with the two liberal media personalities drawing rebukes from the Auschwitz Memorial’s official Twitter account.

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

14 hours ago

At Paris Air Show, Deloitte gives major gift to advance Alabama Cyber School

PARIS — Deloitte presented a $100,000 gift to the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering Foundation Tuesday in a ceremony at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

The donation is a combination of a financial contribution as well as in-kind support. This donation is intended to promote and advance the state magnet school, which opens in Huntsville in August 2020.

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Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle accepted the check on behalf of Deloitte from Ray Winn, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP and a cyber leader.

“One of the primary conversations we are having here at the Paris Air Show is the need to secure aviation and missile platforms,” Mayor Battle said. “To do so requires a workforce that understands how cyber systems interact with hardware.

“This school sets the foundation blocks for creating those platforms.”

Carey Miller, a managing director at Deloitte & Touche LLP, said the firm has been committed to the success of the Huntsville community since opening its office there six years ago.

“The Huntsville community recognizes that cyber is everywhere and that by investing in education, it can be the nation’s cyber leader,” Miller said.

The independent residential magnet school will provide academically motivated 7th through 12th grade students from across the state with educational opportunities and experiences in the rapidly growing fields of cyber technology and engineering.

The school will also assist a broad range of teachers, administrators, and superintendents across the State of Alabama in replicating cyber technology and engineering studies in their own schools.

Deloitte is one of the largest professional service organizations in the world.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

A ‘Story Worth Sharing’: Yellowhammer News and Serquest partner to award monthly grants to Alabama nonprofits

Christmas is the season of giving, helping others and finding magic moments among seemingly ordinary (and occasionally dreary) days. What better way to welcome this season than to share what Alabamians are doing to help others?

Yellowhammer News and Serquest are partnering to bring you, “A Story Worth Sharing,” a monthly award given to an Alabama based nonprofit actively making an impact through their mission. Each month, the winning organization will receive a $1,000 grant from Serquest and promotion across the Yellowhammer Multimedia platforms.

Yellowhammer and Serquest are looking for nonprofits that go above and beyond to change lives and make a difference in their communities.

Already have a nonprofit in mind to nominate? Great!

Get started here with contest guidelines and a link to submit your nomination:

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Nominations are now open and applicants only need to be nominated once. All non-winning nominations will automatically be eligible for selection in subsequent months. Monthly winners will be announced via a feature story that will be shared and promoted on Yellowhammer’s website, email and social media platforms.

Submit your nomination here.

Our organizations look forward to sharing these heartwarming and positive stories with you over the next few months as we highlight the good works of nonprofits throughout our state.

Serquest is an Alabama based software company founded by Hammond Cobb, IV of Montgomery. The organization sees itself as, “Digital road and bridge builders in the nonprofit sector to help people get where they want to go faster, life’s purpose can’t wait.”

Learn more about Serquest here.

16 hours ago

Shelby backs Trump, says Moore Senate bid could help Doug Jones

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Wednesday echoed sentiments previously expressed by President Donald Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., with Alabama’s senior senator saying a Roy Moore senate bid in 2020 could once again hand the seat back to Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Before a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Shelby was speaking to members of the media and was asked about a potential Moore bid, considering the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice is set to make a formal announcement on his Senate intentions on Thursday.

Per pool reports, Shelby said he would not support Moore if he does indeed announce his candidacy, which is widely expected in the Yellowhammer State’s political circles.

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“For a lot of reasons known to you and everybody else…I think Alabama could do better,” Shelby emphasized, saying it would be difficult for Republicans to win back the seat with Moore as the nominee.

Shelby reportedly added that he has spoken with former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Shelby believes would be “formidable” and would “probably clear the field.”

“I’ve not encouraged him to run, but he’s a friend,” Shelby noted.

Sources have told Yellowhammer News that Sessions is not currently actively considering mounting a campaign to reclaim his old seat.

Besides Sessions, Shelby hinted at other good options being available for Jones to be unseated.

“I think we’ve got a lot of talent in Alabama that maybe could come to the front,” he said.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) are the credible candidates who have formally announced Republican candidacies to unseat Jones thus far.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is expected to make an announcement on his potential Senate bid next week after filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

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