Friday, July 31, 2009



On May 9, Edward Whitehead turned 102. As one of eighteen children of Dave and Hattie Whitehead, Whitehead was born in Dublin, Georgia in 1907.

The Arbor Day Foundation honored Whitehead on April 24, 2009 with its first Arbor Foundation Centennial Award at the Dauch Scout Center in Detroit, Michigan. “I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. It seems like I have been collecting awards since before most of you were born,” said Whitehead.

The Whitehead family moved to Albion, Michigan, where he joined the Boy Scouts at the age of fifteen in 1922. As a scout, Edward earned many badges, including the Silver Beaver, the highest honor a boy scout can receive.

Whitehead remained active in scouting as a scoutmaster, cub master and adviser after he moved to Detroit, where he lives today. He still is somewhat active as he works in the scout shop of a scout center and occasionally at a day camp. The former truck driver credits his longevity to a good diet and plenty of rest. He estimates he has worked with more than three thousand scouts. “There are a lot of lessons you can learn. You learn about honesty, about doing good works, about helping others,” Whitehead said.

References:, (Joe Rosseter, Free Press, CNET

Sunday, July 26, 2009



Give Ben Cochran a ball and he will throw it, hit it, catch it, run with it, or perhaps even kick it. Give Ben Cochran a ball and he will learn about life, teamwork and friendship. So, when it came time to look for a university to continue his education, the United States Air Force Academy was the logical choice. In Colorado Springs, Ben could continue to play football, but he could also serve his country and pay his own way through college, just like his father and grandfather before him, who retired as an Army captain and an Air Force major respectively.

Sports has also been part of the Cochran household. Ben’s parents, Guy and Tina, were outstanding athletes at Dublin High School back in the 1970s. Guy played three sports, while Tina was an outstanding basketball and tennis star for the Irish. Ben’s sisters, Shellie, Tanner and Carlin, were all outstanding tennis players just like their mom. "He had no desire to play tennis, but he developed good eye and hand coordination early when his mother made him tennis balls from about the age of three until he started tee ball," said Ben’s father Guy. Ben’s destiny was on the football field however, though there are many who think baseball might be his better sport. "I grew up in an extremely competitive household with three older sisters who had great success in their sport as well as the challenge to living up to my mom with her achievements at UGA. Tina was a state tennis champion, both in high school and at the University of Georgia. Tina set several records for the women's basketball team at the University of Georgia and was one of the top 15 draft choices in the first Women's Professional Basketball League.

Ben sees athletics as a huge part of his life, right behind God and his family. He sees the positive influence that sports can have on someone, believing without a doubt that his athletic endeavors have prepared him for the challenges of life itself. "From learning how to work hard and build character to communication and building cohesiveness on a team, athletics have played a vital role in the development of these areas," Cochran said. In his senior year, Ben guided the Dublin Irish to their first state championship since 1963.

The most obvious reason Ben decided to pursue enrollment at the Air Force Academy was the opportunity at a chance to play D-1 college football. "I did not know much about the academy at all until I started getting recruited by them. After learning a lot about the school and the opportunities here I was much more interested in the possibility of attending a military academy," Cochran remembered. Ben knew that going to college was going to pay his own way. If he would be blessed to receive an athletic scholarship that would be good. Had he not received an opportunity Ben was determined to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather Cochran. "I was planning on trying to go through an ROTC program like my father and grandfather to pay my way through school while having the opportunity to serve my country also."

Ben believes that athletics and military teamwork are similar in many ways. "The military understands the value of athletics, therefore, if you are not an inter-collegic athlete, you are required to participate in intramural sports every semester while at the Academy," said Cochran.

Football practices definitely prepare you for the physical aspects of Basic Training and training thereafter. Cochran feels lucky to have Coach Holmes get in his face just a few times over the years and really cut loose with some less than favorable words yelled directly in his ear. Ben maintains, "When these "butt-chewings" happened, I didn’t know they would be so beneficial in preparing me for later down the road when upper classmen tried to break, pressure, or intimidate me and my fellow freshman."

Recognition for the freshman culminates into one extended weekend. Starting on a Thursday, freshman are treated and beaten down with physical exercises, more strenuous than ever. About a hundred upperclassmen focus in on about thirty freshmen per squadron. It is the event that most people define as a huge difference between AFA cadets and ROTC folks. "Well I was real good at getting in trouble as a 4th classmen (freshman) and had a problem with grinning," Cochran chuckled. Coach Holmes identified this problem in his freshman year of high school but was never able to straighten it out. Ben remembered, " I had told Coach all year that they would not and could not break me and that I would not stop grinning no matter what."

During the recognition period the new cadets go through the Assault Course, which is the most intense and physically demanding course at the Academy. Ben fondly remembered "Going into the course, I started my little grin. After about a dozen upper classmen had already yelled in my face one finally asked, "Who do you think is going to get tired first, me blowing my whistle or you doing grenades?" Every time the senior blew the whistle Ben had to do what is known as a grenade or up-down, jump on the ground, do a push up and jump up. Responding to his questions, Ben flashed the best grin he could give and proclaimed, "I guess you will be blowing your whistle." For a solid hour Ben was forced to endure every single obstacle and grenades between every repetition. Cochran believed his classmates almost enjoyed it as much as he did because they only had to watch him being pulled aside every exercise. "But I will say," Cochran recalled, " that the upper classmen gave me credit for my work after the course and never did I once stop grinning."

The most enjoyable part of the Air Force Academy to Ben is the people. "I have some of the best friends in the world out here that we know each of us would die for the other, speaking both figuratively and literally in the possible situations that might face us in the coming years. The most frustrating part the AFA are the rules and hand holding that goes on. You can’t go to the bathroom without someone knowing when and where you’re going." At the Academy Ben has found some of his best friends ever. He said, "When you eat, sleep, workout, hangout, study, practice, and try to survive together, you become real good friends with those guys.

When Ben is not studying, playing football or drilling, he and his buddies head up the backside of the mountains, where they set up a camp, hunt turkeys in the morning and fish for trout in the afternoon. And, what a place to enjoy the outdoors in the outdoor paradise of Colorado. In point of fact, Ben’s nickname "Buck" comes from a hunting term. Though no one actually remembers how he came to be known by the name was that he was a buck among a family of does.

As for the moment, Ben is still undecided what he wants to do after college and after his career in the Air Force is over. He is interested in pursuing a job as an acquisitions or contracting officer, but he hasn’t ruled out flying either. He also hasn’t given up the idea of coming back to work in the family business, Cochran Brothers, which has been in Dublin for nearly a century.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


An Officer, a Gentleman, and a Hero

I first met Captain Raymond Talbird at his pool side apartment in his son’s backyard. Captain Talbird, a native of Macon, lived most of his life in Florida before moving to Dublin. He was a hero. He is still a hero. The evidence of his heroism hangs on his bedroom wall - not one, but two Silver Stars for gallantry in action, a Bronze Star for heroism, as well a plethora of service and campaign ribbons. He, like many of his generation, saw their mission in World War II as a job to do . Do it, do it well, and hope like heck that you would make it back home. His sometimes atypical leadership style led to the saving of many of the lives of his men.

Captain Talbird was placed in Command of Co. A, 395th Infantry Reg., 99th Infantry Division. The company’s first combat was just before the Battle of the Bulge. Talbird remembered, "There were three rifle companies in our battalion. The company commander of Company B was real "gung ho." The Colonel asked the company commanders what they thought about going into battle for the first time. The Captain of Company B was ready to go. The Captain of Company C said about the same. When the Colonel asked Talbird what he thought, Talbird said, " I told him that I had never been in combat before. I didn’t know if I would run or not, but I would have to wait and see. B Company took the point. They made a cardinal sin when they moved through an open field. The company commander was shot and killed. C Company took the town, but their company commander was dressed highly and walked with a swagger. When one of his men saluted him, he was shot and killed. After that, A Company took the lead most of the time," Capt. Talbird said.

Capt. Talbird relates the following story: "After the Battle of the Bulge, we got orders to pull back from the position we were holding. Col. Hendricks told me that we were trying to dodge the Germans. At the time we had no contact with the Germans. The company commanders talked with the Colonel to figure out where was safe. We finally found out that it was the Germans who told us to pull back and that it was a false report. Things got rough after that. We got separated. I was on a road leading back to the area where we were supposed to congregate. A jeep driver found me and asked me if I wanted to ride back. I told him that there were things I needed to do and that I would walk back. I think it was about fifteen miles. My wife always said that I stretched it to twenty five miles. I saw many men with their feet frozen. While I was walking back my feet began to hurt terribly. I kept walking then had to sit down beside the road. I cut my boots off and my feet were badly swollen. I put on a pair of fleece lined shoes and started walking again. By the time I got back to battalion, my feet had stopped hurting. I had a doctor look at them and told myself that if they were too bad, that I might get to go home. I couldn’t feel the pain any more and thought it must be really bad if I couldn’t feel the pain. The doctor took one look at them and told me that they were fine - that I had done the right thing and the reason that they didn’t hurt anymore was that they had circulation in them."

The Captain’s own words tell his story best. " One time we had to dig in opposite some German pillboxes. We had to occupy that position because we were being stymied by those pillboxes. You couldn’t move during the day because they would take pot shots at you. We had to move at night. They brought our food in at night. We had two men in a foxhole. One would stay while the other went back to eat. One time one of the men went to sleep in the foxhole. When his buddy returned, he was startled and fired his rifle killing him. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want his family to learn how he was killed. I reported that he was killed in action."

"I was ordered to take one of those pillboxes. We attacked at night. I instructed one platoon to take the pillbox. They came back and said that they could not find it. It was hidden in the snow and very hard to find at night. I sent another platoon and they came back with the same story. You couldn’t use your compass, because you would have to light it to see it. I called battalion and told them I was going to take the whole company to find it. I had no compass, so I just started walking like I would walk around the block at my house. I told my men to go around the knoll and when daylight came to shoot toward any movement. It sounded like a war going on. The Colonel called on the radio, I told him that I was trying to take a pillbox and that I would get back with him as soon as I could. We found the pillbox and took it out. I always walked up front with my company. I learned that the Germans would shell us with their mortars at the rear of the company, where the company commanders were usually positioned. I can’t remember, but I think that was when I won my first Silver Star."

"We were following General Patton who was moving lickety split after Normandy. We were to move in behind him and to mop up the towns. Normally we had two tanks and the infantry walked in behind them. But as we went along we would find vehicles beside the road. We were way behind Patton, so I used every vehicle we could find so that my men could ride instead of walking. Sometimes we had to get out the vehicles and walk into town. Patton had sent out orders that the infantry should walk like it was supposed to do. So I continued to let my men ride on the tanks and put the others in trucks. We were told that we would be sitting ducks. I told them to put a machine gun on my jeep and that I would lead them in. We entered one town and I saw a German officer at the end of town waving a white flag. He told my interpreter that he wanted to surrender to the highest ranking officer. My interpreter told him that I was the highest ranking officer. He told my interpreter that I looked like a private. I showed him my captain’s bars to show him I was an officer."

On March 25, 1945, fifty five years ago this week, Capt. Talbird personally led a squad of riflemen and three bazooka teams in an attack. During the action, he continuously exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in supervising the movements of his men. Capt. Talbird was directly responsible for knocking out two of the deadly German 88 guns. He was also responsible for the destruction of a personnel carrier and an anti aircraft gun, in addition to the capture of twenty-two prisoners. For his gallantry in action, Capt. Talbird was awarded his second Silver Star, a truly remarkable feat.

"We were supposed to cross the Danube River on April 27th. At 1100 hours, I went to the bank to oversee the loading of the boats and to get the boats across the river. I had no inkling there were Germans across the river. I saw no activity over there. The engineers were ending their preparations and the first elements were preparing to cross. I was the S-3 of the first battalion. Suddenly, I had an awful feeling that we should cross further down with no problems. I tried to get the regimental commander to delay, but he responded that this would be just a routine crossing. I was on the phone to the 2nd Battalion commander. He said that I was fooling regiment, but I wasn’t fooling him. I informed him that the first battalion was lost and not prepared to cross. I thought to myself that it would be suicide. The 2nd battalion went down to the bank, loaded the boats, and moved out into the war. Then all Hell broke loose. They were shot all up out in the water. There was nothing I could do. I waited and crossed the river five to six hours later about five to ten miles away with no problems," the Captain remembered. For his meritorious service in deploying his troops in a manner which saved their lives, Captain Talbird was awarded a Bronze Star.

Captain Talbird will tell you right up front that he had done things that he didn’t want to do and didn’t think he could do. His primary mission was to do what was best for his men - an attribute which naturally led to the accolades of his heroism. The next time you pass by Pineridge Subdivision, remember that the gray-haired man who lives out by the Al Talbird’s pool is and will always be an officer, a gentleman, and most of all, a hero.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


A Pacific Ace

We buried Bob Shuler yesterday. By military standards he was an "ace." He was a handsome and shy man who never liked to talk very much about his war experiences. Maybe the number of planes with people inside of them wasn’t as important as others might think. Bob Shuler died last Friday. He, like the fictional John Miller in "Saving Private Ryan," was an American school teacher who left the school room to save lives, not to take them. Unlike Captain Miller, he returned to serve his country for many decades to come.

Lucien Bob Shuler was born on the 3rd day of January in 1920 in Griffin, Georgia. He attended Griffin public schools and Young Harris College. Shuler was principal of the grammar school, taught 7th grade home room and coached the six-man football at Cadwell High School in the years before World War II. His basketball and football teams won county championships and Sixth District championships.

Shuler began his military career on August 4, 1941 and became an Army-Air Force aviation cadet on December 7, 1941, the first day of our country’s entry into World War II. Just over six months later, Shuler was commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon his graduation from flight school at Stockton Air Force Base in California. After a two day respite, Shuler reported to Morris Field, North Carolina to train as a fighter pilot with the 20th Fighter Group. On August 16, 1942, Lt. Shuler was transferred to the 15th Fighter Group stationed at Wheeler Field, Hawaii. On the 1st day of February, 1943, Shuler was reassigned, this time to the 44th Fighter Squadron, 18th Fighter Group, which was then assigned to the strategic military island of Guadalcanal.

While flying on a routine patrol with Lt. Doug Curry on the afternoon of June 16, 1943, Lt. Shuler shot down his first enemy plane. The two pilots encountered two Japanese Vals, one of which Shuler’s fire sent plummeting into the ocean. On August 1st, twenty five to thirty Japanese Zeros encountered Shuler’s flight from behind and above. In a head-on attack, Shuler destroyed a Zero over the island of Gizo.

Three days later, nine P-40 American fighters were scrambled to meet a flight of twenty five Zeros. The planes met at twelve thousand feet above the ocean. Shuler, in a high speed attack, downed one enemy plane. " I picked out one that had passed under us in a dive. I thought at first that he might be a dive bomber, but later saw that he was a Zero. Firing a few bursts in the dive, I really got him as he pulled out. I let him have another burst as I pulled out. I saw him hit the beach and explode," Shuler said. After climbing back up to the remainder of the flight, Shuler made two additional attacks, downing two more Japanese fighters. "Using my speed, I gained back my altitude and was back in the fight. I leveled off and found another Zero in my sights. A long burst from my guns caused him to flame and explode in midair. Turning to the left, I found myself in a similar position as before; another Zero appeared at close range. I opened fire and saw my tracers converging on the Nip. His wings began to rock, and he fell off into a vertical roll. I followed him down, firing all the way long. The plane, blazing from the cockpit, came out of the roll and went into a slight dive. The canopy came off, and the pilot stood up with one leg on the wing and the other inside the plane. Pulling the parachute ripcord before he had left the plane, both the plane and chute went down in the flames," Shuler later reported. After spotting a lone Zero, Shuler downed it for his fourth victory of the day. "As I turned off onto the fourth Zero that passed about five hundred feet above me, I closed in and opened fire. Although I seemed to have been getting hits, the Zero didn’t want to burn, but I continued firing until his left wing and cockpit flamed. I tagged onto another Zero, but my guns were out of ammunition after the first burst," Lt. Shuler recalled. His seventh and final victory occurred on August 10 over western New Georgia.

Bob Shuler's P-40, 68th Fighter Squadron

For his extraordinary achievement in the air battle, Lt. Shuler was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army Air Force. That day, an important one in the war in the Pacific, was the day when American forces captured the Munda Air Field. In one hundred and thirty eight missions, Lt. Shuler was officially credited with the destruction of seven enemy planes and the probable destruction of seven more.

Shuler himself was once forced into the water. He was drowning, being pulled down by the weight of his equipment, when a sailor pulled him out of the water. "The worst thing that ever happened to me during the war was the two weeks on that Navy ship until I was able to return to duty," Shuler commented.

Lt. Shuler continued to serve as a flight commander and squadron operations officer in the South Pacific until January 18, 1944. He was then transferred to Pinellas Air force Base in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he served as a pilot and aerial gunnery officer until the end of the war in September 1945. During the war, Shuler, piloting P-40 Warhawks and P-38 Lightnings, was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Army Air Medal with eleven Oak Leaf Clusters, a Distinguished Unit Citation, and various other medals, which he always kept in a drawer and never said much about them.

Before the end of the war, Lt. Shuler returned to Dublin to marry a Barbara Fay Bedingfield, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett Bedingfield, in a wedding service held in the First Methodist Church. The wedding announcement, along with highlights of Shuler’s aerial exploits, made the front page of the Atlanta papers, with the caption under Shuler’s photograph reading "Pacific Ace Downed by Cupid."

After the war, Shuler continued his education at Mercer University in Macon, where he obtained he B.A. in English in 1948, all the time remaining on the inactive reserve list. While at Mercer, Shuler served as President of the "M" Athletic Club and was a member of the student government, Kappa Phi Kappa fraternity, Blue Key National Collegiate Honor Society, Sigma Nu, and was named as "Who’s Who" in national social fraternities. Shuler returned to active military service in September of 1949 as an instructor at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama.

When the Korean war broke out in the summer of 1950, Shuler was assigned to combat duty as a fight commander. Shuler served for three hundred and sixty three days in Korea. While he was not engaged in aerial combat as he had been in World War II, Shuler flew one hundred close in combat support missions in Korea. On one occasion, Shuler was called upon to destroy a train. Shuler’s guns struck a bull’s-eye just as the train began to exit an underground tunnel. In over five hundred hours of combat missions, Shuler was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses, twenty three Air Medals, Presidential Unit Citations in both wars, and Campaign Medals with three stars in both wars.

Shuler was transferred from active combat duty to Scott Air Force Base Illinois, where he served until July 1952. He served for three years as Assistant PAS at Oklahoma State University. Shuler returned to the Pacific in October 1955, where he served in Japan until June of 1958. As the Cold War began to really heat up, Shuler was assigned to duty as Chief of Flying Safety of the 1st Missile Division at Vandenberg Force Base in California. In March of 1959, he was transferred to Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, where he served for nearly five years. Shuler served in the Strategic Air Command as Commandant of the 8th Air Force NCO Academy, as Commander of the 99th Air Refueling Sqdn., attended the War College at Maxwell Air Force base, and as a member of the Silk Purse Group in Manchester, England. Col. Shuler concluded his thirty- year Air Force career with a three year stint as head of the Air Force R.O.T.C. at Virginia Tech University. Shuler retired in 1973, and his family came back home to live in Dublin, where he resided until his death on March 9, 2001.