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WWII war medals presented to soldier’s family

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Murfreesboro Diamond photos/PJ TRACY MEDAL PRESENTATION. Marine Sgt. Jack Linzy’s daughters (from left) Carolyn Cox, Kathy McSpadden and Jackie Linzy with Stephen Ezelle, a veterans outreach specialist, and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (back).
FLAG PRESENTATION. A member of the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard presents an American flag to the daughters of Sgt. Jack Linzy.

By P.J. Tracy

Murfreesboro Diamond

In the spirit of the Memorial Day holiday, a medal representation ceremony was held in Murfreesboro last Thursday for the late Marine Sgt. Jack Linzy.

Linzy’s was represented at the event by his family, including his three daughters — Carolyn Cox, Kathy McSpadden and Jackie Linzy.

Sgt. Linzy, a World War II hero as a Marine, was previously awarded three Bronze Stars for his valor in action. After Linzy’s death in 1970, the medals were stolen during a home invasion, along with other personal items such as jewelry and a coin collection. 

Leading the way in getting the medals was Stephen Ezelle, a Veterans Outreach Specialist with the Arkansas Workforce Center from Hot Springs.

Local First United Methodist preacher and Marine veteran Michael Daniel opened the ceremony with the Marine’s Prayer. Featured at the event was a Marine Corp Honor Guard, who presented a flag to Cox, as well as the Murfreesboro High School Band, who showcased military fight songs. Local student Brooke Westfall sang the National Anthem.

Dignitaries such as representatives from the offices of Congressman Bruce Westerman, Senator John Boozman and Senator Tom Cotton were in attendance and sent letters of congratulations to the family.

Also included was Pike County Veterans Service Officer Freddy Clay, Pike County Judge Dewight Mack and Murfreesboro Mayor Rodney Fagan. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin was the featured speaker.

Griffin, a officer in the National Guard for 22 years, thanked those in attendance for coming to the event, which featured a number of local veterans and local youth.

“I often ask myself the question, why do we put on events like this?” said Griffin, as opposed to just giving the awards away in a private ceremony to the family. He added that it wasn’t as simple as a private matter. 

“When we do something as a group, we take time out of our day, and we are sending a signal to the world — to our community, to our state, to our country, to young people — that this is something special that means a lot to the community. We as a community are saying our values include honor and respect of veterans.”

He said that honor and respect was important because it taught future generations the importance of the sacrifice and service that was given to the country.

“You are not born knowing the values that should be given in regard to veterans … to learn that, you have to be taught respect and honor.”

Griffin said that due to the number of youth and the smaller number of American servicemen today due to voluntary service that it was more important to show the youth the importance of sacrifice.

“In the past, with major conflicts, everybody knew someone who served. Everybody had a family member or neighbor, but that’s not the case today. It’s very much a small segment of our society. So, it is important for us to set time aside for these sorts of events, because there is no guarantee a hundred years from now that people will automatically feel the same way about veterans. We have to teach the next generation and show them.” 

Griffin said the best way to teach, using the example of his own children, was through actions.

Griffin closed in thanking Linzy’s family for his service, and the family for allowing the public to participate in the event.

“These are the sorts of things that bind America together and allow us in a time of everybody doing their own thing to show our shared values that we treasure, not only for ourselves, but for the youth in attendance so they know what to do when we are gone.”

Clay, who was given a Korean War American battle flag by a local veteran, and deciding his office was too small to house it, announced the flag would be displayed at the Pike County Courthouse.

He thanked those in attendance for being able to attend the event.

“It’s because of Sgt. Linzy and people like him that we enjoy the freedoms and liberty today that we have in this country. Many people don’t recognize that, but some of us do, and we shouldn’t let our veterans forget it.”

Ezelle, in presenting the medals to Linzy’s family, said the process began in 2017 after hearing the story of the missing honors from Cox.

“Keep in mind (she) only knew her father to age 15, and she said she never really knew the work he did for his country.”

He told the significance of the medals in the hopes that the family “could pass on the legacy of their father and grandfather to future generations.”

Linzy, who served in the Pacific Asiatic Theater in World War II, was both a cook and a bayonet qualified Marine, joining the service as a 20-year-old and serving from September 1943 to December 1945.

“As humble as [Linzy] was, all he wanted to be was a cook,” said Ezelle. Known to his family as a practical joker, he would go into logging and heavy machine operation after his service ended. Ezelle also stated that Linzy was a beekeeper and raised hogs on the side, selling honey, ham and bacon on the Pike County Courthouse grounds. As an avid outdoorsman, Linzy would take his three daughters to catch crawfish to use as bait for his fishing endeavors. Linzy would pass away on Sept. 5, 1970 at the age of 47-years-old.

After confirming Linzy’s service with the National Archives, Ezelle was able to identify the medals that Linzy received and described to those in attendance the significance of each.

They included the American WWII Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Medal of WWII with three Bronze Stars representing Linzy’s the three major battles in which he served including the Battle of Okinawa and the WWII Victory medal.

“The journey has been a dream,” Ezelle said to Cox of his quest to locate the medals and find out more about them. “I really, really appreciate this dream, and I thank your for allowing me to be part of the quest.”

Murfreesboro Mayor Fagan read the joint city/county proclamation that named May 24, 2018 Sgt. Jack Linzy Day.

In part, the text of the proclamation stated, “Sgt. Linzy serviced in action during this time in the area known as the Asiatic-Pacific theater under the commands of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and General Douglas McArthur and was not only the cook for his unit but served with weapons qualifications and bayonet against the enemy and that during his service in Okinawa the fleet was a part that faced and survived frantic attacks of the Kamikazes; and whereas, because of the service and bravery of Marine Sgt. Jack Linzy while in service to our country, his service should be noted with distinction; and now, therefore … do hereby recognize Sgt. Jack Linzy as hero for his role in World War II and to pay honor to him, declare Thursday, May 24, 2018 to be Marine Sgt. Jack Linzy Day.”