FRANKFORT, Ky. –
Several dozen Soldiers and civilians gathered outside Boone National Guard Center at the Fallen Soldier Memorial for their annual Memorial Day ceremony May 31, 2021.
“We are gathered as Americans to pay our respects to the men and women who gave their lives for all of us in defense of our great nation and its ideals,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear to the crowd gathered in front of Boone Center. “For this boundless love and selflessness, our fallen Kentucky Service men and women asked of us only this, that we remember them.”
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This year's event focused on one new name added to the memorial’s stone face and the fifteen fallen of the 103rd and 106th Coast Artillery Battalions whose names appear on the memorial on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of World War II. These men fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany.
“Today we are marking the addition of a son of Webster County added to the Kentucky National Guard memorial,” said Beshear.
The one new name added to the memorial stone was that of Pvt. Winstell Hearell. Hearell, 19, of Wheatcroft, Webster County, was struck and killed by the Seminole Limited train on May 19, 1917, while serving with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Kentucky Infantry Regiment on federal active duty. He had been guarding a railroad trestle some two and half miles from Wickliffe.
“1917 seems like a long time ago,” said Beshear. “But I think by making this honor today, we are living up to our idea that everyone counts, and we honor every single individual who has given their life in service even if it takes more than 100 years.”
The casualties of the 103rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion (Automatic Weapons) (Mobile) mentioned during the ceremony were: Maj. Mortimer M. Benton, Fayette County; Cpl. Opal E. Cornn, Laurel County; Pvt. Buster Criswell, Owen County; 1st Lt. Hal T. Hackney, Fayette County; 1st Lt. Thomas L. Hehman, Campbell County; Tech. Sgt. 5 Richard A. Heidkamp, Boone County; 1st Lt. Jeff Johnson, Jr., Laurel County; Pfc. Kenneth Walsh, Campbell County and Tech. Sgt. 5 Owen W. Whitaker, Fayette County.
The casualties of the 106th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion (Automatic Weapons) (Self-Propelled) mentioned were: Tech. Sgt. 5 James C. Berry, Barren County; Tech. Sgt. 5 Gordon B. Brooks, Barren County; Tech. Sgt. 5 Joseph R. Carrico, Washington County; Pvt. James J. Gannon, Washington County; Sgt. John E. Parrott, Washington County and Tech. Sgt. 5 Raymond J. Ramsey, Wayne County.
Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, Kentucky’s Adjutant General spoke during the ceremony.
Lamberton first asked all Gold Star families to stand up to be recognized and honored for their sacrifice. He then shared a personal experience with the attendees at the ceremony.
“For me, Memorial Day always reminds me of two Soldiers I served with in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, during especially scary days,” said Lamberton. “It was December 1989, and we were just getting ready to start the Christmas holidays…This was something unexpected.”
Lamberton, holding back the tears, shared the experience he had during an air assault on a hilltop near the small town of Tinajitas, Panama. He and the members of his unit were under heavy attack by the Panamanian Defense Force and two of his fellow Soldiers were lost in that fight.
“This was, for me, and I believe for a lot of our Soldiers in the unit, a moment when it was no longer another big adventure,” Lamberton said. “It simply became a more serious, risky type of initiative for all of us.”
Lamberton went on to say how much that loss meant to him. He claimed witnessing his Soldiers being carried out on stretchers gave him a more purposeful life while he continued to serve his country beyond that day.
“I am appreciative of sharing this memory today,” said Lamberton. “Memorial Days are not a celebratory day, but it’s a day of remembrance. To Gold Star Families, I respect you and your continuing to remember. And for the rest of us as beneficiaries of what all of our fallen comrades, friends and Service members have done, I ask everybody to remember them likewise. Thank you.”
Other speakers during the ceremony were Chaplain (Col.) Jay Padgett, state chaplain, Capt. Michael Hart, Joint Force Headquarters company commander, and Chaplain (Maj.) Kerry Wentworth, 123rd Airlift Wing chaplain. The master of ceremonies was Col. Joseph Gardner, the KYARNG chief of staff.
History of the 103rd and 106th Coast Artillery Battalions:
The reorganization of the United States Army shortly before World War converted Kentucky's 123rd Cavalry on November 1, 1940, as the 103rd Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Separate Battalion and the 106th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Separate Battalion.
Members of the 103rd experienced an incredible journey. They began training at Fort Sheridan, Lake County, Illinois, on March 4, 1942. On April 30, the 103rd left New York, arriving in Northern Ireland on May 15. The unit was transferred to North Africa, arriving Dec. 8. On July 2, 1943, the 103rd left North Africa and went to Sicily. The battalion participated in Operation HUSKY, the Sicily Campaign, from July 9 to Aug. 17, 1943. Departing Sicily on Nov. 17, the 103rd arrived in Scotland on Dec. 9, 1943. On Sept. 29, 1944, it was stationed at Belgium, remaining there until Oct. 22. From October 1944 to April 28, 1945, the 103rd was in Germany. Between April 28 and May 6, the 103rd was in Czechoslovakia. The 103rd arrived at New York Nov. 30. On Dec. 1, 1945, the 103rd Antiaircraft Artillery Amphibious Automatic Weapons Battalion (Mobile) was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. The unit was redesignated May 13, 1946, as the 441st Field Artillery Battalion, Kentucky National Guard with Headquarters at Lexington, Ky. Currently the lineage and honors of the 103rd is carried by the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, with Headquarters at Lexington.
The 106th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) Separate Battalion, began training at Camp Hulen, located near Palacios, Texas, Jan. 15, 1941. The unit arrived in Northern Ireland on May 15. On Oct. 19, when it was transferred to North Africa, the battalion took part in Operation TORCH, the invasion of North Africa, arriving at Algeria on Nov. 7. Between Nov. 17, 1942 and May 13, 1943, the 106th participated in the Tunisian Campaign. The battalion left Africa and arrived in Sicily on July 10. The 106th participated in the Sicily campaign between July 9 and Aug. 17. On Sept. 16, the 106th departed from Sicily and moved to Italy, remained there until Aug. 12, 1944, and participating in the Naples-Foggia Campaign. The battalion landed in Southern France on Aug. 15. The 106th left France on Dec. 20 and went to Germany. The unit returned to the U. S. on Dec. 2. The battalion was inactivated the following day, Dec. 3, 1945, at Camp Shanks, New York. On Jan. 29, 1947, it was reorganized and redesignated as the 623rd Field Artillery Battalion with Headquarters at Glasgow, Kentucky. Currently the lineage and honors of the 106th is carried by the 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery.