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Banquet to memorialize veteran's service

By DEAN POLING | The Valdosta Daily Times, Ga. (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 6, 2017

VALDOSTA — John Henry Ford confronted hard experiences in World War II.

The Valdosta resident was a young black man in a then-segregated Army.

He was assigned to the Tuskegee, Ala., base in an era when experiments were conducted on black people without their knowledge.

From the time he was inducted into the Army Dec. 27, 1943 to his discharge Nov. 16, 1946, Ford served overseas 21 months, according to his Army records. He served on Okinawa, the Philippine Islands, etc.

“He served in the Grave Registration Unit and shows some symptoms which may be attached to this activity,” according to one 1948 document.

“He also served in the Quartermaster Unit. He was hospitalized one month in Okinawa and treated for arthritis. He was hospitalized in the Philippine Islands for one week and treated for an eye injury.”

He was discharged with partial papers; the military records claim other service records belonging to Ford were destroyed by fire.

Years later, Ford and his family were told hardly any papers were available from his service, especially during his time at Tuskegee, said Valerie Ford, his daughter. Until, after years of trying, a packet of 48 pages of documents arrived anonymously by mail at the Ford residence.

Ford suffered throughout his life with bouts of anger, depression, silence, numerous symptoms of what has later been termed post-traumatic stress disorder, his daughter said.

Part of the suffering was due directly to the war experiences; other experiences were due to the loss of records experienced by numerous black soldiers at Tuskegee, she said.

Ford said her father was wounded on the front lines in the Philippines but “he never received a Purple Heart for that valor, always being told, ‘he was one of those who fell through the cracks.’ Older black veterans have had to fight for everything, including their own dignity.”

Saturday evening, John Henry Ford will be memorialized by fellow black veterans during the Veteran Bible Study group annual banquet at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center, said Lou McClendon, a Vietnam veteran who leads the group. One-hundred-seventy to 175 people are expected to attend the banquet.

The group of veterans meets weekly. McClendon started the group in 2014. The organization provides fellowship and worship for veterans.

The banquet schedule includes keynote speaker Kenneth Cutts, a representative of Congressman Sanford Bishop.

McClendon said many black World War II veterans experienced lost records, often told the records were lost to fires.

The banquet will pay tribute to these men and specifically John Henry Ford, who died at the age of 92 in August 2014.

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©2017 The Valdosta Daily Times (Valdosta, Ga.)

Visit The Valdosta Daily Times (Valdosta, Ga.) at www.valdostadailytimes.com

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