Historical Society recognizes four local military heroes

Historical Society recognizes four local military heroes

 (L-R) Mickey Cummings, Libby Stevens, Sharon Hunter, Cindy Hunter Hacker and Eric Rich spoke on behalf of local veteran heroes Leon Davenport, D.L. Martin, Franklin Hunter and Eric England, respectively, in the Historical Society’s Nov. 11 Veterans Day event.

By Jeremy Foster North Georgia News Staff Writer

On the evening of Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, inside the Old Courthouse, the Union County Historical Society hosted its inaugural Veterans Ceremony honoring four legendary local veterans in D.L. Martin, Franklin Hunter, Eric England and Leon Davenport.

The meeting began with Historical Society President Mickey Cummings commending North Georgia Veteran’s Memorial Markers for the dozens of handmade markers placed around the square downtown. Cummings also previewed upcoming concerts at the Old Courthouse, such as Roy Perren with “An Elvis Christmas”

on Friday, Dec. 2, The North Georgia Chamber Symphony on Friday, Dec. 9, and John Cochran and The Cowhands’ Cowboy Christmas on Friday, Dec. 16. “Dec. 3 will be our annual Christmas Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting beginning at 6 p.m., with activities going on most of the day and caroling starting at 5:30 p.m.,” Cummings said, before segueing back into the program at hand that evening.

“What would we be doing tonight if it was not for our veterans?” Cummings asked. “We have a very good lifestyle in America, and sometimes we forget about the important things that people (in the service) have done for us to live the kind of life we have today.

“So, let’s take the time to say ‘thank you’ to the Lord above for those veterans that have kept us free here in this country.”

Libby Stevens started the recognitions with a discussion about her father D.L. Martin, who served in the Navy and passed away at the age of 96 in 2018.

There wasn’t much opportunity in the area back when Martin decided to join the military, as “much of the game had run out” and Union County was operating primarily on “a barter system.”

“While he was in the military, he did not know how to swim at the time, and he had two ships go down under him,” Stevens said. “The next time he was not so lucky; he got shrapnel in his knee that hurt him ‘til the day he died.

“He also contracted malaria in the service, but the best thing he contracted was discipline, self-confidence, and knowledge that there was something else out there, that there was something he couldn’t find on the farm. He found there was something he wanted more – that’s what the military did for him.

“(As a result), he was a master dry-cleaner, was instrumental in starting the thought process of starting a Chamber of Commerce; he was one of the founding members of the Kiwanis Club and last living charter member of it until his death; he started football here in Union County (and helped start a medical clinic that would later become Union General Hospital).”

Then, sisters Cindy Hunter Hacker and Sharon Hunter highlighted their father Franklin Hunter, who was born in the Choestoe area, served a career in the Air Force, and passed away at the age of 84 in 2017.

They shared many facts about Franklin, including that he graduated from Union County High in 1949, joined the Air Force at 17, and by the time he was 19, “he was in Korea as an air med technician training to provide medical care to wounded servicemembers in flight.”

During his first enlistment, Hunter earned the first of many air medals for participating in air medical evacuation missions transporting wounded servicemen to higher levels of medical care.

He retrained in 1965 as a Load Master, his service taking him to Turkey, Egypt, Istanbul, Iran, Korea, Vietnam and many other countries.

Hunter served many missions of humanitarian relief, surviving a hangar attack from Vietcong Guerillas, earning a United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and many other awards all citing his devotion to his country.

“Although he could not tell us about anything classified, he would tell us funny stories of things that happened between him and his crew,” the sisters related. “Ultimately, (he retired) as manager of the Blairsville Airport.

“He never met a stranger, and his motto was ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’, and he made sure that we understood that we had it much better than a lot of people in the world, and to make the most of the time we are given in life.”

Next , Eric Rich presented on his uncle Eric England, a Blairsville native and a Distinguished Marksman and Sniper veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Vietnam. England passed away in 2018 at the age of 84.

Rich shared with everyone just how much his uncle influenced him during his formative years.

“My uncle was a Marine through-and-through,” Rich said. “He attained values (in military service) that he instilled in me as a young boy that I still carry with me today as a man, values such as hard work, dependability and accountability.

“He was a man of few words, and very humble about all of the achievements he had in the military.”

Rich highlighted several fond memories, offering a funny story about how when he was born, his mother called to tell her brother that they were naming the boy after him, “and then my uncle said, ‘Why in the hell would you wanna do that?’”

The bottom line was this: England was the true definition of “the measure of a man,” and Rich made sure to “thank all veterans for their service, and hope everyone has a happy Veterans Day.”

Presenting on Blairsville native Leon Davenport, Cummings related that he was “born one mile from the Old Courthouse, turning 18 years old on Dec. 9, 1944, and celebrated by reporting for duty the very next month on Jan. 10, 1945, beginning his military career in the Army.”

Cummings noted that Davenport, who passed away at 90 in 2017, remarked in his journals that he began “in rotations of peeling potatoes, mopping floors on kitchen patrol and cleaning detail,” saying “how proud his momma was going to be of him for learning how to do that in the military.” “

Following basic training,” Cummings continued, “he was awarded his High School Diploma while being home. (He) was always worrying that he was going to miss World War II entirely, serving much of his time in the Philippines as a part of the 24th Infantry Division.

“(He enjoyed) six of years of service in Japan after the war ended, playing offensive, defensive and guard positions in the 21st Infantry Division Regimental Football Team who were subsequently the 1948 and 1949 Regimental Football Champions.

“(Davenport participated) in nine out of the 10 major battles of the Korean Conflict, earning a Battlefield Commission, (and) served with the 14th Armored Calvary Regiment, his company receiving the first MCT tanks in Europe. “(He earned) nine Air Medals, retiring from the Army in 1972 and returning to Union County to become administrator of Union General Hospital, with an ambulance service being established, a new building purchased, nursing was begun, and a faith-based chapel outreach was established all during his tenure until 1993.

“His faith in God was always the most important thing in his life, becoming the first deacon emeritus at Blairsville Baptist Church in 2010.”

To close, Cummings repeated, “where would we be without our nation’s veterans?” Indeed, the North Georgia News thanks every veteran for their service and hopes everyone had a gratitude-filled Veterans Day in 2022.