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imagesimgsrisnerphoto.jpgOn November 11, 2013 I am asking that all of us, both veteran and civilians, remember what this day was intended to be.  Far too frequently we look upon holidays as a time to be away from work and to serve our own interest without looking deeper into what the day actually represents. 

 

Veteran’s Day was originally established to honor World War I veterans from which the armistice was signed to cease combat activities on November 11th at 11:00 A.M. 1918 thus, ending that hostility on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.  Once the date was established as a national day of remembrance, we as a nation have continued to think on those who have and are serving this nation. 

 

I recently discovered two obituaries of veterans that recently passed away and was saddened by the fact that no national attention had been given to these men who had stood watch over us in a time of deep peril to our nation.  If you would be so kind as to continue reading I would like to give you a little history of these men and in doing so perhaps bring this day to mean much more than a day away from work. 

 

On October 29, 2013 John Spence passed away at the age of 95 at a care facility in Bend, Oregon.  This name will mean very little to most however Mr. Spence was a combat (frogman) diver in the US Navy during World War II and retired from active service in 1961.  His service to us as a nation began in 1936 where he became a hard hat diver and gunner.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, Mr. Spence volunteered for a new clandestine organization known as the OSS. 

 

John Spence was trained to infiltrate enemy beaches and facilities armed only with a Ka-Bar combat knife, explosives and his teammates.  Spence was part of a group that swam ashore several times in occupied France prior to the D-Day invasion.  He and his fellow combat divers went on to conduct missions that were held under secret classifications and only in the late 1980s were those classifications lifted.  You may recognize the unit that was developed directly from John Spence’s exploits this legendary unit became known as the Navy SEALS.  So with almost 25 years of service to us and being a path finder for those who followed, John Spence born in Centerville, Tennessee the son of the local Sheriff passed away without fanfare or notice by the nation he loved.

 

The second gentleman and veteran that I would like to bring to your attention died October 22, 2013 at his home in Bridgewater, Virginia after suffering a stroke at the age of 88 years.  J. Robinson Risner (no known family ties) became an ace fighter pilot with the U.S .Air Force during the Korean War where he was credited with shooting down eight enemy MIG fighter planes.  Risner flew 108 combat missions in Korea earning a silver star for his effort in saving a wingman whose jet was damaged by pushing the damaged plane through 60 miles of enemy airspace to safety.  

 

In 1965 as a squadron commander Lt. Col. Risner was sent to Vietnam where he was shot down, rescued and returned to combat operations.  Six months later he was shot down again, landing in a rice paddy where he was captured by the NVA.  As the most senior POW in captivity Col. Risner was repeatedly tortured, starved, chained and kept in solitary confinement for most of his eight years of captivity.  Col. Risner by his leadership and dedication encouraged several hundred fellow POWs to resist by all means the torture, starvation and solitary confinement by the enemy.

 

Often beaten and arms dislocated with extreme pain to the point of losing consciousness Risner became a symbol of resistances in one of the darkest moments of the POW’s captivity. To resist his captors in providing a verbal propaganda statement Risner, at one point, attempted to damage his own vocal chords so that he could not speak.   Sometime in 1971, “Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons From the Hanoi Hilton” by Lee Ellis, upon being released from solitary confinement Risner lead fellow POWs in a forbidden worship service only to be bodily removed by NVA guards as fellow POWs burst into singing “The Star Spangled Banner”.

 

Col. Risner survived his captivity and retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Brigadier General in 1975.  Upon his retirement General Risner spoke at many veterans events around the nation.  General J. Robinson Risner, born in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas joined the Army Air Force upon turning 18 and served his nation and the people he loved until 1975. 

 

We, who have served and those who continue to serve, keep the people we have sworn to protect and defend safe from foreign invasion.  We owe at least the gratitude of one day out of the year to thank the veterans of this nation.  Just remember our nation has been in constant combat operations since September 11, 2001.  Those who have answered this call do so as volunteers as we currently do not draft military personnel.  From those veterans who have passed away quietly, to our wounded warriors that are missing limbs, to those that suffer the mental anguish of loss and wounds not seen all I can offer is a deep gratitude and prayer of God’s grace upon you. 

 

A heartfelt thank you from us at the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.  (Isaiah 6:8)

 

 

 

By Terry J. Risner Sheriff

 

 

References:  John Spence dies at 95, by Tony Perry latimes.com. 

                       Rick Kaiser, executive director Navy SEAL Museum at Fort Pierce, Fl.

                

References:  J. Robinson Risner dies at 88, by Steve Chawkins, latimes.com

                       “Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons From the Hanoi Hilton by Lee Ellis