Supreme Sacrifices

Once again, families in Livingston have been are among those who have a loved one taken away because of war. Word came on August 19, 2004, to the McCormick family about the loss of Marine Corporal Brad McCormick who died that same day in Iraq. He was only 24 years old, much too young to die. Brad was the son of Keith and Gail (Sebers) McCormick, husband of Courtney (Curtis) McCormick, brother of Blake McCormick. Bradís death follows closely the loss of another Livingston resident, Jeremiah Savage, who also died fighting in Iraq. Jeremiah, only 21 years old, died on May 12, 2004. He was the son of Ronald and Eva Savage of Livingston.

It was also during the month of August that two other Overton County families received similar word regarding the death of their sons. That particular day was August 1, 1969, during the Vietnam war. The two young men who lost their lives were John Bradford and James Larry Hicks. Both men died on the same day, each serving as a Private First Class in the United States Army. John Bradford was the son of the late Alton and Ruth Bradford of Livingston. James Larry Hicks was the son of James W. and Ruth Hicks of Hilham.

Some 15 years earlier, news reached the Clarence and Mary Blanche Davis home of the death of their oldest son, James T. Davis, or Tom, as he was known to everyone here. Tom was the first recognized American soldier killed in open combat during the Vietnam war. His date of death was December 21, 1961. Tom had been in Vietnam only five months at the time of his death. The first military compound in Vietnam to be named for a fallen soldier was officially designated Davis Station on January 10, 1962. A great deal of information dedicated to the memory of Tom Davis can be found on various websites on the internet.

In recognition and memory of these young men as well as others who died while defending their country, an eternal flame burns on the courthouse square. A James T. Davis Memorial was also placed on the courthouse square, and the Livingston Academy football field is known as the Tom Davis Memorial Stadium. The street known as the bypass around the town of Livingston was named Bradford-Hicks Drive in memory of John Bradford and James Larry Hicks. Many people who drive on this street quite often are not aware of why it was given that name. It was through the efforts of the local VFW Post 5062, under the leadership of Commander Cecil Allen, that began in early 1973, and the help of State Representative Tommy Burnett, the necessary steps were taken this have the bypass designated Bradford-Hicks Drive.

Another war hero from this area that not a great deal was ever written about was Staff Sgt. Loval E. Ayers, son of the late John and Sally Mae Ayers. (Sally Mae Ayers later became Mrs. D. S. Thrasher.) Sgt. Ayers was killed in action in Germany on March 2, 1945. A memorial in recognition of his bravery in combat is also on the courthouse square in Livingston. A front page article of The Overton County News dated October 28, 1971, has this to say about his many military accomplishments:

Sgt. Ayers volunteered for military service on April 19, 1941. He went overseas in January of 1944, and was wounded twice before being killed on March 2, 1945. He received many medals and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts, Combat Infantry Badge, several Oak Leaf Clusters, a Rifleman Badge, and a Badge for driving. Sgt. Ayers was also awarded the British Military Cross, the highest medal given soldiers outside the British Empire. One of his citations for military medal reads as follows: "For extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Prum, Germany, 10th February, 1945. Enemy fire emanating from three buildings preventing Sgt. Ayerís Company from reaching its objective. Without orders from his platoon leader, he made his way toward the first house and killed two Germans, visible at a window as he approached. He then entered the house, single handed, killed two more Germans and forced the surrender of the remaining twelve. Sgt. Ayers then returned to his unit and asked permission to repeat the process on the remaining two points of resistance. Permission was granted, and two men were sent along to cover his assault. He then crept up to a point near a second building and hurled a grenade inside, followed closely by his entry, firing his automatic rifle rapidly. By the employment of this daring method, he successfully neutralized all resistance which had impeded his company. He killed a total of five Germans in the last two houses, and captured 41 prisoners. The outstanding heroism displayed by Sgt. Ayers is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service."

That same issue of The Overton County News gives details of the Veterans Day Program in Livingston which included a colorful parade, the flag raising, recognition of Overton County P.O.W.ís of World War II, and recognition of Gold Star Mothers. Those mothers present and recognized that day were Mrs. Claude Allen, mother of Vestle Allen; Mrs. Mae Colson, mother of Bedford Colson; Mrs. Edith Smith, mother of Millard Smith; Mrs. Ruth Hicks, mother of James Larry Hicks; Mrs. Bessie Kennedy, mother of Dolphus Kennedy; Mrs. D. S. Thrasher, mother of Loval Ayers; Mrs. Myrtie Vaughn, mother of James Vaughn; Mrs. A.J. Bradford, mother of John Bradford.

Tributes, recognition for bravery, and memorials for fallen soldiers are quite fitting, but I feel sure family members left behind have a vacant spot in their hearts and souls that only that person who has been taken away could fill. I conclude with a poem, the author unknown, that says:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the Gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight,

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.