Museum symposium will honor three distinguished Americans

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In 11 days, on Thursday, Jan. 10, a special event will be held – the Jimmie Dyess Symposium. At 5 p.m., the Augusta Museum of History will pay tribute to three extraordinary individuals who have served their nation and their fellow citizens in many important ways.

First on the list is Medal of Honor recipient and retired Navy Capt. Tom Kelley. Tom received his award as a result of a combat action in Vietnam in July 1969. Although grievously wounded in the head, he maneuvered his ship to help protect the soldiers and sailors in his eight-ship riverine force.

Although Kelley lost an eye in that combat action, the Navy granted him a waiver so he could remain on active duty. After retiring as a Navy captain in 1990, Kelley worked for many years for the Veterans Administration.

For his long and dedicated service to his nation in war and peace, Kelley will receive the Dyess Symposium’s Distinguished American Award.

The other two individuals who will be honored Jan. 10 will be former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders and Lou Brissie. Sanders served as a B-17 pilot during World War II, and as governor of Georgia
from 1963 to 1967. He has had a lifelong commitment to his fellow citizens and has been very active in philanthropic activities throughout the state of Georgia and beyond.

LOU BRISSIE WAS severely wounded in combat action in Italy in World War II. Despite these injuries, Brissie was able to realize his childhood dream of becoming a successful major-league baseball pitcher. He dealt with pain on every pitch during his six years in the major leagues. Throughout a long and active life, he has been an inspiration to disabled children and wounded warriors.

Since the Dyess Symposium is such a recent community activity, it may be helpful if I provide some background information on this event.

Three years ago, an idea surfaced that is making a difference in the health and future of the Augusta Museum of History. Bill Lesshafft suggested that an annual celebration be held in the museum that would serve five goals:

• to honor an Augusta native, Marine Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess, the only person to have received America’s two highest awards for heroism, the Carnegie Medal and the Medal of Honor;

• to salute extraordinary Americans who have exemplified the pattern of selfless service
that Dyess demonstrated so notably;

• to become an annual fund-raiser that would help return the museum, which had been struggling financially, to solid and sustained financial shape;

• to welcome people from all over America who visit Augusta to attend this symposium and to meet and visit with the honorees (at the upcoming symposium, two Dyess family members Dwight Dyess and Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess will be coming, from Mississippi and Virginia, respectively);

• to support the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation by drawing widespread attention to its mission of perpetuating the Medal of Honor’s legacy.

Museum Director Nancy Glaser, her outstanding staff and the Dyess Symposium committee have worked hard to improve on the success of the 2011 and 2012 symposiums.

PLEASE PULL OUT your calendar and mark down “Augusta Museum of History – 5 p.m.” for Thursday, Jan. 10. The program has been crafted carefully to last only one hour. The Heritage Academy’s choir will kick off the event with two patriotic songs, so please don’t be late.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, there will an opportunity for attendees to meet and visit with the honorees as well as with Dyess family members, including Jimmie Dyess’s daughter.

How can you help to make sure this event continues? Become a financial supporter by sending a check (for $100 or more), made out to the Augusta Museum of History and sent to 565 Reynolds St., Augusta, GA 30901.

Your support will help pay for the expenses of the symposium and help sustain the museum as it carries out its important mission of preserving the CSRA’s history, exhibiting this heritage and offering quality public programs throughout the year. If you get your check to the museum this week, your name will be included in the program.

One final point: There is no charge for this event. Please come and encourage your family members and friends to attend.

(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves on the boards of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Augusta Warrior Project and the Augusta Museum of History. His email address is genpsmith@aol.com. His web site is genpsmith.com.)


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