Veteran receives long-awaited honor

OKEECHOBEE — After many long years, the family of Nola Belle Carman received recognition for the sacrifice she made as a mother during a time of war. In May of this year, one of our featured veterans, Francis Holcomb, told the story of her mother watching seven of her 11 children going off to war, six of them during WWII and one during WWI. Thankfully, all seven returned home to her.

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
WWII veteran Francis Holcomb (center) is pictured with (left to right) BHR Post 9528 Adjutant John Denney, Allen Holmes, Mike Holmes and Commander Tommy Jewell.

A beautiful ceremony was held at the Okeechobee Health Care Facility on Monday, Oct. 7, in which many retired veterans who live at the facility took part by carrying the flag, leading the pledge and praying. Mayor Dowling Watford acted as master of ceremony, and Jim Clark sang several songs including the national anthem.

Mrs. Holcomb was the guest of honor at the ceremony, and she was accompanied by her sons Allen and Mike Holmes and daughter-in-law Linda. Their family has been a part of Okeechobee for many, many years, said Mayor Watford. The Holmes family was one of the founding families of Fort Drum. “We truly appreciate your family and all of your service.” Also present for the ceremony were members of the Buckhead Ridge VFW Post 9528 and American Legion Post 64, Sheriff Noel Stephen, Cpl. Jack Nash, Okeechobee Councilwoman Monica Clark and, from veterans’ services, Mariah Anuez.

Mayor Watford said sometimes we forget what the families of service members go through. “I think everyone in this room respects our veterans, but sometimes we forget that the families serve also.” He spoke of reminiscing with his mother, and she remembers ration stamps. You could not just buy anything you wanted during the war. You had to have a coupon to get sugar or beef. She said she thought you could get two pairs of shoes each year but then told him it didn’t really matter anyway, because they couldn’t afford to buy them even if they were allowed.

When people go off to serve their country, the families that are left behind pay a big price, he said. “I remember stories of families who would see the Army car coming down the street, and they knew what that meant. They would all go outside and watch to see which house that car stopped in front of because they knew that was bad news.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Seven of Nola Belle Carman’s 11 children served in the military, one during WWI and six during WWII.

“This day is not about the big shots up here today,” said Mayor Watford to Mrs. Holcomb. “This day is about you and your family. We are here to honor your family.” John Denney, Buckhead Ridge VFW Post 9528 adjutant, spoke to the crowd and explained they became involved last December when a member of their post, Mike Holmes, shared with them a letter written in February 1945 by then South Carolina governor Ransom Williams to Mr. Holmes’ grandmother. The letter acknowledged the fact that she had six sons and daughters serving in WWII and also acknowledged she was entitled to a six-star emblem of honor pin, however, due to a shortage of metal at that time, he instead sent a certificate of honor and wrote that if at any point the metal became available, she would receive her pin. He then expressed his gratitude for her sacrifice. Mrs. Holcomb enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943, becoming Mrs. Carman’s sixth child to serve in WWII. Mrs. Carman never received her pin, possibly due to the hectic postwar activities all of the states were engaged in, said Mr. Denney. Their VFW post undertook a campaign to ask the current governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, to present the pin or a letter recognizing Mrs. Carman’s sacrifice to her daughter Mrs. Holcomb, who is Mrs. Carman’s last surviving child. Following several letters urging this action, they received a letter from him which they presented to Mrs. Holcomb. The letter from Gov. McMaster says:

Dear Mrs. Holcomb,
I have recently learned that your mother, Mrs. Nola Carmen, was entitled to receive the six-star emblem of honor pin in recognition of your and five of your brothers’ service during WWII. Unfortunately due to the shortage of metal it was never struck. South Carolina has a long history of supporting our veterans and military service members. You and your brothers, all members of the greatest generation, have earned this deepest respect and heartfelt gratitude for your commitment to defending our nation and fighting to secure freedom for people around the world. Your choice of service above self is an inspiration to us all and has set an example of the continuing importance of honor and duty in the world today. We recognize the great personal sacrifice of you and your family and appreciate your contributions to America.

Mr. Denney went on to say their post appreciates Mrs. Holcomb’s service and that of all the veterans in the room.

Commander Tommy Jewell of the BHR VFW post presented Mrs. Holcomb with a lifetime membership to their post. “It’s citizens like Mrs. Holcomb who have kept America free and prosperous,” he said.

The event ended with another song led by Jim Clark followed by refreshments.

Mrs. Holcomb is not much of a talker, but when asked what she thought of the ceremony, she said she thought it was nice. On Nov. 20, she will celebrate her 100th birthday, and if her sons and Sandy Perry have anything to say about it, there will be another big party to celebrate.

To read Veteran Holcomb’s “Every Veteran’s Story”, click HERE!

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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