Holland, Hastey to serve as grand marshals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Features Editor

Two Pike County veterans will be honored as grand marshals of the Independence Day Parade in Brundidge tomorrow.

Albert Hastey and Tyrone Holland were selected by a committee of the Brundidge Business Association and will lead the patriotic parade down Main Street at 9 a.m.

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Hastey is a veteran of World War II and is one of a handful of soldiers called by Uncle Sam, sent

home by Uncle Sam and called back to active duty by Uncle Sam.

"I was drafted into the Army in 1940 and completed basic training, then they sent all the old men home," Hastey said, laughing. "I was drafted when I was 28 years old, but while I was in basic training for six months, the high command decided 28 was too old to be a buck private, so they sent me home."

Hastey came home and went to work in a Montgomery retail store. Shortly after Dec. 7, 1941, the high command decided a man over 28 years of age just might

make a good soldier and an officer after all.

Hastey was called back to active duty and served four years and 11 months.

He first orders sent him to Camp Blanding, Fla. There he "got ambitious" and applied for officer’s training school. He was accepted and soon found himself in the sugar cane fields of Hawaii training soldiers for combat.

Shortly before his unit was to ship out to Sipan, Hastey was injured when the fire from a No. 1 55mm gun knocked his head phones one way and him the other.

Hastey knew immediately that something was terribly wrong with his left ear. He went to the infirmary and "they" put cotton in his ear and told him to come back. He went back and got another stuffing of cotton and a shot of penicillin.

"They told me to come back in two days, but my unit was shipping out," Hastey said. "I knew I wouldn’t be discharged and I didn’t want to ship out with another unit, so I was on the ship with my unit when it sailed."

Hastey evidently distinguished himself as an officer because he was promoted overseas to the rank of captain and would have reached the rank of major, except the war ended and he had the opportunity to go home and he went.

"I signed my own orders to go home," he said. "I was told to prepare orders for my men to go home and I said, ‘All of them?’ and they said ‘yes.’ So I signed my papers and I came home."

Hastey, an Abbeville native, had worked in Brundidge prior to his military service and he was given that opportunity again when he came home.

"I had a choice between working with M.O. Carroll in Ozark or O.K. Ramage in Brundidge," he said. "I was going with the one who gave me the most money and Mr. Ramage gave me $5 more a month."

Hastey bought half interest in the general mercantile store and later bought Ramage’s part. He was a Main Street merchant in Brundidge from 1947 until 1983.

During that time, he was a driving force in the community. He was the first president of the Brundidge Chamber of Commerce and served in that capacity for the first four years of the organization.

He was instrumental in bringing the Fruit of the Loom factory to Brundidge – saving many jobs for area residents –

after Regal Gloves closed its doors. He was involved in the building of the Brundidge Airport and in recruiting Recipe Foods.

For 18 years, Hastey was an active Rotarian and he is a dedicated member of the American Legion.

Today, Hastey spends much of his time on the golf

course, trying to beat his wife Susie.

He also enjoys fishing and spending a major portion of his time with 176 roses.

On Saturday,

Hastey will be saluted by his community, not only for his service to his country but also to his community.

"I am very honored," he said. "I don’t know if I deserve this honor, but it means a lot to me."

Hastey’s quiet manner is quite a contrast to Holland’s obvious excitement at being selected as a grand marshal.

"I just couldn’t believe it," he said, with a broad smile. "I said, ‘they want me, Tyrone Holland to be a grand marshal!’ It feels real good for me to know that people in my community picked me to serve in such a prestigious role. It’s good to know that people are thinking of you. I hope I will make them proud they picked me."

Although he has always loved his country, Holland didn’t have any ideas about joining the military.

"I was drafted so I volunteered," he said, laughing. "The army drafted me and I didn’t want to go to the Army, so I volunteered for the Air Force and they took me. After that, the Army left me alone. They don’t care where you go, just so long as they get you."

Holland served his country from 1968 until 1972 in Europe and Vietnam.

"I was in the law enforcement in Europe and in Vietnam I manned a guard shack on the front lines," he said. "’We watched the perimeter for the enemy. I saw a lot of things that I wish I could forget."

The worst part of war and the hardest thing to forget is seeing young men die, Holland said.

"A lot of the soldiers were 17 and 18 years old – just out of high school and they were over there fighting for freedoms for people they didn’t even know," he said. "It was sad that so many of them never came home."

Holland came home and made a life for himself that was far removed from the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam.

He attended Tuskegee University on the GI Bill, earned a degree in accounting and worked at Ft. Rucker until he became disabled in 1987.

These days, he spends most of his time doing his "Christian duty" by serving his fellow man.  

Holland said he doesn’t like to talk about his experiences in Vietnam because they are too traumatic, but he loves to talk about his country.

"I love America," he said. "It’s an honor for me to be an American and it was an honor for me to fight for my country. I know I shot men and killed men, but it was something that I had to do. We have rights that our Constitution gives us, but somebody has to enforce those rights or we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we have. It’s my duty to be involved in any activities that relate to the flag.

"It’s a privilege to honor and recognize Old Glory. Regardless of the size of the flag – it can be real small, but to me, it’s big."

When Holland parades down Main Street Saturday and sees all of the flags lining the route, he’s sure he will get a little teary-eyed.

"When I think of all of the soldiers that have died defending our flag … ." It’s more than a flag to me; it’s everything," he said.