Col. Jim Stone and his exploits were both praised and roasted Thursday night (April 23) at the ninth annual fundraiser by the Friends of Adams Memorial Library.
"We're here to honor Jim Stone, but I hope they really burn you, Jim," said emcee Charlie Harrell, who was roasted during last year's event.
LTC Doyle Boyd got the event rolling with a recounting of his days serving with Colonel Stone.
"The lies I'm about to tell are true," Boyd said, adding that he was really sticking out his neck to recount anything about Stone's military career. "Has he got a knife there behind me? He was an aide to two generals, I wonder what happened to the first? Has he mysteriously disappeared?"
Mystery was an important part of Stone's career. "A great organizer, he arranged a carpool for us, but he managed to never drive," Boyd said, adding that later he discovered the colonel was driving the latest model Cadillac. "He just didn't want it included in the carpool."
Boyd offered some details about Stone leaving the military service after 30 years.
"He retired in 1989. Normally, we had a little retirement party at work. He said no, no, no that won't do, I want my party at the Opryland Hotel," Boyd recalled.
Meanwhile, the colonel told everyone who asked he was planning on being a pig farmer after he retired.
"Of course, it was our obligation to help him out, so we launched a search for a pig to be presented to him at his party," Boyd said.
"Soon we found one. It was the runt of the litter. It had to be little so the diaper would fit," he continued.
But mother nature intervened. The pig managed to run away probably after learning just who his new owner would be.
"A few days later he was discovered in a lady's rose garden, rooting up the roses," Boyd said. "The lady called the police and the TV news stations heard the call and came out with cameras. That little pig became a famous TV star overnight."
Initial plans for a barbecue were over-ruled and the pig was claimed by another lady who raised it in her backyard.
"A year or two later, the pig made it back on TV. It was weighing some 6-700 pounds," Boyd said.
Naturally, Colonel Stone was concerned that the pig would be identified as his but the statute of limitations is over.
Boyd also had a presentation for Colonel Stone. It was 'carefully wrapped' in a brown paper bag. Stone refused to accept the gift at first, but eventually relented. The presentation was a multi-colored beanie with a helicopter-style blade on top in honor of his career as a copter pilot.
Next was Bobby Ferrell, former commander of VFW Post 279.
Ferrell recounted how Colonel Stone became an important mentor to him in his climb to leadership in the state VFW and the major role Ms Frances (Stone's late wife) played in the colonel's life.
"I first met Ms. Francis in 2007. What a love story. We were riding on a float in the Veteran's Day Parade. After the parade was over he looked at Ms Francis and said now look that's it. I need you to get busy writing and addressing thank you notes. She said, 'I'm going to tell you something, if you want those dadgum notes sent out you better get them printed out and mailed yourself.
"I found myself thinking ... wow that's a full-bird colonel and his wife has just told him off," Ferrell laughed.
Next up was the Colonel's little brother, Charley "Butch" Stone.
"I've always been known as his little brother," Stone said. "I'm going to be 70 this year. If I'm going to be 70, you're older than dirt."
Charley admitted that he was usually a tag-along.
"When we would leave the house, he would sit me down as soon as we were out of sight. He would tell me to shut up, stay here and don't say anything to our parents," he recalled.
But more than occasionally, his older brother was stuck with him like the time they went squirrel hunting. "Those guys were great hunters."
Charley and his buddy Tom Ferguson set out before dawn and Charley shot his first (and only) squirrel just about daylight. Fortunately, the boys had brought along a little 8 mm movie camera.
Tom would pitch the squirrel back into a tree and his young brother would shoot it down while Jim filmed him. "We shot that squirrel 20 times," Charley said.
Needless to say, the boys didn't bring the squirrel home, but their dad was delighted with the film and watched it over and over again.
Charley then turned serious as he stood before the crowd at Cannon County High School and recounted how his older brother was shot down in Vietnam.
"This goes back to 1962, a day I will never forget. I was home with my mother and dad, Jay Bob and Granny Ruth. Jimmy was over in Vietnam fighting in the war. We knew he was in a combat zone because he was flying an armed gunship.
"One day in January, I saw a military car pull up in front of the house. Two military men got out, straighten up their uniforms, buttoned up their coats and they came to the door. They knocked on the door and said is your mother and dad here. I said yes sir," he continued.
Charley found his parents and brought them into the living room where the two men waited.
"They came in and sat down and said, 'we've got some bad news. Your son has been shot down and is missing in action. That was crushing, devastating news for our family. I had never seen my mother cry. My mom wept uncontrollably ... thinking he could very well be dead. I'd never seen my dad cry either. My dad left the room and I went out in the garage much later and he was crying in the garage. It was really a sad day for us," Charley said.
"Luck shone on our family. We went to our good friend, Rep. Jim Cummings ... who made some contacts through the Red Cross and some other high officials and found out ... the next day or maybe two days ... that he had been found that he was rescued.
"He's only told me this story one time. I hope I get the facts right. Most combat veterans you can't get them to talk about what what they did. The Chinooks, the twin-rotor helicopters, would take the troops out to the rice paddies and while they were doing that Jim's unit job was to fly the outskirts of the loading zone and hold back the Vietcong. And one of the Chinooks took on some ground fire and it was disabled and they put out an SOS to anybody within distance. My brother picked up the emergency call and they were asking for an emergency pickup. They were shooting all over the place.
"My brother, just like any of you would do, is going to go in and rescue his fellow troops. He goes in and he lands and he takes a few of these guys on board and he's getting ready to lift off and as he gets about 10 or 15 feet in the air he takes fire in his transmission and he told me, 'the last thing I remember was the helicopter was rolling over uncontrollably and landed upside down in the rice paddy.'
"He was unconscious and he didn't remember anything after that. He told me later that it was customary of the Vietcong that once they would sweep back over the area ... to see what valuables remain. If there were any survivors, they would kill them. If you were wounded, they would kill you.
He was hanging upside down, unconscious. He had a ring on his finger, just like mine, from Middle Tennessee State and it fits pretty tight. They took that gold ring off of his hand. They took his watch too and his billfold too. They thought he was dead. The rest of the crew ... they killed them," Charley said.
"That's the story of my big brother. He's always been my hero."