Bladen County Veterans honored
By Erin Smith
Bladen County’s veterans were honored for their service on Wednesday morning at the National Guard Armory in Elizabethtown during the 12th annual Bladen County Veterans Day Ceremony.
One Bladen County Veteran’s family was recognized with a memorial tribute in memory of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James “Jim” Burney. His widow, Linda Burney, and his family members were presented with a plaque commemorating the tribute.
“It’s an honor first and foremost for me, for him to have been recognized. He loved his time in the service,” said Linda Burney. “He loved his country. He loved this county. He loved North Carolina.”
Ann Garrett, one of the event’s organizers, said that Jim Burney wore a shirt that read “Burney Strong.” She said he was an inspiration to everyone.
Garrett read the scripture Jeremiah 29:11 which reads, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
The guest speaker for the event was Dr. Jason Wray, US Army Retired and Principal at East Bladen High School. He spoke about his mentor and commanding officer, Staff Sgt. Williams.
“His knowledge and wisdom is alive and well in the US Army,” said Dr. Wray.
He noted that Staff Sgt. Williams gave him a pathway to be successful not in his career in the US Army but also to be successful in his career as an educator.
Dr. Wray said, “He told me, ‘I’m not going to let what happened to me, happen to you.’”
He said Staff Sgt. Williams encouraged him to enroll in and complete college courses, to take PT (physical training) six days per week, and to take any courses the Army offered in professional development. Dr. Wray said at first he argued with Staff Sgt. Williams regarding the fact he did not intend to stay in the Army. Dr. Wray said Staff Sgt. Williams told him, “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you (to do those things).”
Dr. Wray said he adhered to Staff Sgt. Williams plan and he rose quickly through the ranks. He said it also instilled self-discipline.
“I did not know he was setting me up for success, not only in military life but also in civilian life,” said Dr. Wray.
Dr. Wray said he achieved the rank of Staff Sgt. in 48 months and earned the rank of Sgt. First Class in 7 years.
During the ceremony there were drill team performances and the national anthem was performed by Peyton Fell and Jackson Bostic of East Bladen High School.
The Outstanding Cadets were also recognized during the ceremony. They were Cadet Captain Maria Baza of Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy, Cadet LTC Denzel Burney of East Bladen High School JROTC and Cadet Sgt. George Paris III of West Bladen High School.