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Bo McMullian

Bo McMullian

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In 1966 and 1967 Steve Bell volunteered for duty in Vietnam--TWICE

It was 1963. Although this was in the middle of America’s Cold War with the USSR and the specter of Vietnam was lurking in Southeast Asia, Steve Bell’s yearning to join the US Navy was undaunted. He joined before finishing up at St. Petersburg High School. As part of his enlistment agreement, he signed up at 17 and got his GED in the Navy. Steve was inducted on June 3, 1963—five months before the assassination of President Kennedy and eight months after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Steve was first assigned as fireman aboard the Destroyer USS Holder (DD 819) out of Norfolk, Va.,  and later as a machinist’s mate aboard the Cruiser named after and based in the capital of Massachusetts—the famed USS Boston (CAG1). But that didn’t keep him out of harm’s way, not even in the early pre-escalation days of the Vietnam War.  Bell was aboard the Holder when the World War II-veteran ship was assigned to “chasing Soviet subs across the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  At least he got to see most of Europe while in port.  But those were submarines with nuclear missile capability.  

After the assignment in the Atlantic, the Holder returned to Norfolk where it was reassigned to Vietnam.  The ship reached the Pacific via the Panama Canal, stopping at Hawaii and then the Philippines. She would return home on the other side of the world through the Suez Canal. By then it was 1966 and the Holder was sent to the coast of what was then the free Republic of South Vietnam.  “In the Navy at my level,” Bell explained, “you very seldom knew where you were at any given time—they never told you much.  My duty was more like Star Trek than Rambo.”  

The USS Holder’s job was to shell targets up to 10 miles inland with the use of its 5-inch guns with 38 caliber shells.  Steve often had to hand-carry the heavy shells from place to place aboard ship.  The Communists and the North Vietnamese Army didn’t appreciate the big guns so they fired back.  However, the Holder was a moving target so it never got hit during Steve’s first tour of duty in Vietnam, he explained.

That wasn’t the case during Steve’s second trip to Vietnam almost a year later, in 1967.  That was when the Boston, a much bigger ship, used its 8-inch guns to fire shells up to 20 miles inland, shells that could take out half a city block when they hit, Steve said.  The enemy really hated the Boston, and one day they hit it, but the damage wasn’t great.  “I heard it hit when I was in the engine room,” Bell explained.  “We were somewhere off the coast of Vietnam is all I ever knew.  We’d go out at night and zigzag up and down the coast.  It was a game of cat and mouse—the enemy couldn’t tell where we were.  The Boston, also a World War II veteran ship, was well armored so the hit didn’t do too much damage.”

Someone on another ship, Steve doesn’t know who or what ship, took a famous photo of the Boston getting hit.  The ship’s newsletter described the incident:  “A geyser reaches 95 feet to the bridge as Boston comes under fire from heavy caliber North Vietnamese shore batteries while Boston is supporting troops of the 3rd Marine Division near the DMZ during Operation Beau Charger.”

“Unlike two cruisers that served in Operation Sea Dragon prior to our arrival,” the October edition of the “Beamrider” continued, “Boston was extremely fortunate in not receiving any direct hits from enemy coastal defense emplacements.  On 13 separate occasions, Boston came under intense barrages of enemy fire.  Air bursts left shrapnel littering the decks and point-detonating shells came dangerously near, but Boston always escaped to fight again.”

A note included in the newsletter from Capt. Leon Smith Jr., the commanding officer, praised the men of the USS Boston:  “Since I assumed command on July 3,” Capt. Smith wrote, “Boston has plagued North Vietnamese logistics with a passion.  We destroyed or damaged close to 200 enemy supply craft during the past three months, as well as numerous coastal defense sites, highways, ferry landings and similar line-of-communication points… Almost daily we steamed into areas in which enemy gun emplacements were known to be on the lookout for us.  While we were sinking (enemy water crafts), the enemy was calculating our movements as a target for his guns and often his solution was disturbingly close.  But the next day we were right back to his supply lines again.  We fought a dangerous type of war in which the hours were long and the glamour short, but our military leaders, still aware of the consequences, still considered the job important enough for a heavy cruiser and her 1,200 men.”

The Captain’s conclusion was very inspiring.  “Therefore, in the years to come,” Smith said, “when you are asked where you were while many of your countrymen were engaged in protests or draft evasion or debating issues or disclaiming personal ‘involvement,’ I think you will be proud to say:  ‘I was off the coast of North Vietnam in the USS Boston!’”

Indeed, Steve Bell had encountered some of those “protests” when he was back in Virginia between the assignments from the Holder to the Boston.  That’s why he volunteered for duty that sent him right back to the war—and he knew it.  “So many people blamed the veterans for the decisions their country was making,” Steve explained.  “The hostility was amazing.  A lady on the street one day looked at me and told me she was glad her son wasn’t a murderer like me.”  Anti-war media coverage, featuring the daily body counts, took a toll on Americans’ attitudes about the Vietnam situation.  But it backfired on men like Bell.  “I put in for a transfer back to Vietnam,” he said.  “I got orders to go to Boston and within weeks, we left for Southeast Asia.”

One term in the military was enough for Steve, though.  He returned home to St. Pete where his World War II veteran dad Ed Bell was a building contractor.  Ed Bell was too old for the infantry during the Great War but he was honored for his service in the last couple of years (1944-45) with the US Army Corps of Engineers (see photo, this page). Bell’s brother Allen Bell also served in Vietnam, in the Army. Steve married Fran Schmitz in St. Pete in 1972 and this past February, they celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary at their home in Calhoun County near Blountstown.  Steve, a member of the Marianna VWF Post #12046, recently retired from 10 years with the Florida Department of Corrections, finishing at Calhoun Correctional Institution.

“CGH Medical Stabilization Service” Detox, dependency patients now accepted at CGH

Campbellton-Graceville Hospital has “gone the extra mile” in offering “an atmosphere of hope” for patients that may be suffering from alcohol or drug dependency, according to new staff members interviewed on site by the Jackson County TIMES Monday afternoon.  The hospital has hired two staff members to coordinate the Medical Stabilization services, Deonna Wilson RN Clinical Director and Troy Taylor, Clinical Therapist.

“This has been a longtime goal of the hospital,” Interim CEO Peggy Moore explained. “ 

“Any hospital can accept a patient who is in withdrawal from alcohol or any other substance who desires to overcome this addiction,” said Taylor.  Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Taylor both have professional experience with this type of care.  “We have gone the extra mile in offering an atmosphere of hope with added activities that give patients additional care and attention that is provided by all staff at Campbellton-Graceville Hospital, said Taylor. “We want to help get the patients stabilized and, if necessary, refer them to a treatment center-something long-term if they are willing to take the next step in the recovery process,” said Wilson.  Patients can stay at the hospital in this capacity for several days or longer if necessary.  The average length of stay for these patients is 7 days. Taylor and Wilson offer group sessions for these patients.  A small library has books, videos and DVDs available on recovery and addiction.  There are no designated units at the hospital for these services, although a few rooms have been improved with positive messages and other 

furnishings.

Deonna Wilson, RN Clinical Director earned her degree at Wallace Community College in Dothan and began working at CGH in March.  Troy Taylor, Clinical Therapist earned his degree at the Baptist College of Florida and began working at CGH in February.

All nursing staff as well as all other departments at Campbellton-Graceville Hospital are dedicated to providing the same excellent care as a team to all patients.  Patients have been receiving the Medical Stabilization services with positive results since February and they are all looking forward to helping many more patients in the future.

FFA STATE CONVENTION 2016 - Halling among winners at Orlando’s state FFA convention

Grand Ridge 8th grader Elizabeth Halling and her rabbits continued to “put Grand Ridge on the map,” as her mom says, at the Florida FFA Convention last week in Orlando.  The 15-year-old came away from the 4,500-participant convention as a winner of the top “Proficiency Award,” statewide for “small animal production and care,” and as a finalist in the State Star Degree contest.  Both recognitions are rare for 8th graders, or middle school students.  They usually are reserved for the 9-12 high school students.
“They’ve never had a Star Discovery finalist from the 8th grade,” Anita Halling said at their Iowa Street home in Grand Ridge Saturday afternoon.  “And she’s the first 8th-grader going to national competition with a Proficiency Award.”  Elizabeth is going to the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., later this year, Anita said. The state FFA president and the state FFA secretary visited Elizabeth’s rabbitry behind the Grand Ridge FFA classrooms in May.
It was hoped that Halling would become the first state star degree winner from middle school but Anita says the Proficiency competition was just as tough.  “The state star award is more elite, that’s true,” Anita said, “but the Proficiency requirements are harder. She had to produce a much thicker file for the Proficiency, including all records of her operations.  The Star Degree is more FFA-related but the Proficiency requirements are all about production. It’s called SAE—supervised agriculture experience.”  Halling’s Grand Ridge FFA instructor is Shauna Ferguson. 
Elizabeth says she will not only continue to compete with her award-winning rabbit-breeding proficiency talents in future FFA competition, she will keep her rabbitry as a vocation.  She actually sold 700 bunnies over the past year, she explained Saturday.  Barn Nannies, a feed store in Grand Ridge, helped with marketing.  She is fortunate in that she is able to maintain her rabbitry of about 59 rabbits on the campus of Grand Ridge School, located within walking distance from her residence.  She also has a few animals at the residence.  The rabbitry provides an exhibit often shown to the elementary students at Grand Ridge School.  “Lots of kids want to buy a bunny so they can participate in the Panhandle Youth Expo event in Jackson County each October,” Elizabeth said. 
Elizabeth explained that she does have to control the birth rate very carefully.  A female rabbit can produce up to 30 bunnies per litter, she said, and 30 days after conception.  Elizabeth, originally from the West Palm Beach area, got her start in agriculture with 4-H.  She started raising rabbits in January of 2013.  Elizabeth said that after high school, she is thinking about pursuing an agriculture-related degree at the University of Florida after she finishes two years at Chipola College.  

Sneads High School State FFA winners/Orlando Convention:

  • Orion Douthit, 1st Place Tractor Driving and State Star in Ag Placement finalist;
  • Don Dowling, Diversified Crop Finalist Proficiency;
  • Hailey McDaniel, Specialty Crop Finalist Proficiency, Courtesy Corps, OH Demo Marketing, Alumni Essay Winner;
  • Mackenzie Davis, OH Demo Marketing;
  • Shelby Johnson, Delaney Smith, Sam Rabon, Ag Comm 3rd Place;
  • Madeline Wright, Prepared Public Speaking 4th Place;
  • Hailey McDaniel, Shelby Johnson, Sam Rabon, Don Dowling, State Degrees;
  • Sam Rabon, Shelby Johnson, Alexis Bohannon, Faith Douthit, Amber, Delaney Smith, Justin Lawrence, Mackenzie Davis, Katie Robbirds and Codi Nixon, Day of Service.

Grand Ridge FFA winners:

  • Meg Alexander, 1st Place Prepared Public Speaking;
  • Faith Hardin, 5th Place Extemporaneous Public Speaking;
  • Elizabeth Halling, Small Animal Proficiency Winner, Finalist for Star Discovery Award;
  • Collin Alford and Hunter Groomes, Day of Service;
  • Tucker Dowling, Collin Alford and Dillon Arnold, Courtesy Corps;
  • Dillon Arnold, Alumni Essay Finalist;
  • Dylan Jackson, Taylor Reese Howell and Meg Alexander, Horse Judging Team--4th in State.
  • More Jackson County winners will be published in next week’s Jackson County TIMES.

County commission hires new Tourism Development Director

Based on the recommendation of the search committee, the Jackson County Commission on Tuesday hired Christine Andreasen as the new director of the Tourism Development Council (TDC).  Andreasen has experience in the field, being formerly associated with the Bay County TDC.  She was chosen from a field of six candidates who applied for the position by the deadline earlier this month.

“Ms. Andreasen is a Jackson County native,” county staff reported, “and after spending time away from Jackson County to pursue her education, she moved back to Marianna and is eager to bring her enthusiasm for the county to the TDC.”  The commission changed the position from private contract to fulltime employee of the county. 
The county’s first TDC Director, Pam Fuqua, hired in 2012, worked under private contract and commissioners had voiced concerns that the status gave them less control over the employee and the job.  Andreasen will replace current interim TDC office manager Whitney Willis.

Andreasen reportedly was hired at the starting salary of $29,883 yearly.  The job requirements included a bachelor’s degree in marketing, tourism or public relations and a minimum of three years of experience but “a comparable amount of training or experience could be substituted for the qualifications,” according to the published job ad.  The members of the interview panel were Human Resources Director Lennetta Greene, TDC vice chairman Mark Panichella, interim county Administrator Pam Pichard, Community Development Director Wilanne Daniels and Interim Parks & Recycling Director Rett Daniels.

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