Although 20 years have passed, I still remember the hint of a teardrop in Russell Hudson’s eyes as his feeble hands lowered and folded the flag on the town square in Liberty.
At 86, he’d been raising and lowering the flag at the Casey County courthouse, morning and night, for 21 years, without pay.
He’d been a bugler in the infantry during World War II. A childhood illness had damaged his eyesight so severely that he memorized the eye chart and lied about his age to get into the Army at age 17. The bugle on which he had played taps at hundreds of military funerals hung on his kitchen wall.
“I practice of a night here,” he said. “But nobody hears me.”
Hudson died several months after we met, but each year when I see Old Glory unfurled on July 4, I think of him and many other quiet patriots whose Kentucky pathways I have crossed over the years.
Walton Haddix of Clinton County has spent 12 years trying to persuade the Army that the late Lt. Garlin Murl Conner of Clinton County deserves a hearing to decide if he is eligible for the Medal of Honor for his remarkable heroism during World War II.
Conner’s acts of courage in battle were discovered by Wisconsin Green Beret Richard Chilton, while Chilton was researching the war record of his uncle, who died in Conner’s arms at Anzio beachhead.
In recent years Conner’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, and numerous others have pleaded, to no avail, with the Army Board for Military Corrections to consider new eyewitness evidence supporting Conner’s eligibility for the Medal of Honor.
Ramsey has explained that in the heat of combat he neglected to recommend Conner for the medal at the time of his heroism. Haddix, a Navy veteran, is now working with a Lexington law firm to plead Conner’s case in federal court.
If awarded the Medal of Honor, Conner would join the ranks of the most decorated soldiers of World War II—an honor now held by Audie Murphy, who served with Conner in the 3rd Infantry Division.
Then there is Eugenia Morrison, 83, of Barren County, who three years ago decided that something had to be done to reclaim the overgrown grave and surrounding cemetery where Revolutionary War soldier William Peers is buried in northern Barren County.
She enlisted the help of others and often spent her own money, clearing briars and other bramble from 30 grave sites, including the gravestone of Peers, who fought at Valley Forge and in several other Revolutionary War battles.
Community volunteers learned of her efforts and pitched in to help. The Disabled American Veterans erected a flagpole and flag. Now Morrison sees to it that the cemetery grounds are mowed and maintained.
She wonders who will look after the cemetery when she is gone.
And I am wondering who is left to follow the paths of Russell Hudson, Walton Haddix, Eugenia Morrison, and many other Kentucky quiet patriots.
It is something to think about each time Old Glory is unfurled.