Charles Gilliland’s father was called by God to be a Baptist preacher as an adult. Though he had eight children and had dropped out of grade school, when he felt God calling him to preach, he courageously went back for his education. When his oldest daughter entered the first grade at Eldridge Academy, he entered the fourth grade. In a short time, he graduated from high school and started Howard College (now Samford University).
Charlie grew up in a godly home with parents who loved their children, loved the Lord and loved their country. When World War II broke out, Charlie did what every red-blooded American boy did; he joined the service. Charlie joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 and was shipped off to the University of Colorado for radio school.
After completing his training, he was sent to the Pacific Theater and was assigned to the 593rd Joint Assault Signal Company. His responsibilities were to provide fire control for planes that were bombing the islands. Thus, he took part in many of the battles that are well remembered in history.
He participated in the battles for the recapture of the Philippines. He was at Saipan during the battles that took place there. He was on the beach at Iwo Jima, where he witnessed the American flag being raised over that battle-scarred island.
Charles Gilliland and others like him have made great sacrifices so that we all can enjoy and experience the great freedoms that this wonderful country affords.
While Charles does not consider himself a hero, we Americans are forever grateful for the sacrifices that he and others like him made for our country. He put his life on the line, and he and others have paid a great price so that we could remain the land of the free.
Charles is now 88 years old. He is still in great shape and works out at the gym. He and his wife, Jackie, are very active at Jasper’s First Baptist Church, where he has served as a deacon.
It was because of people like Charles Gilliland that we can live a life of freedom. We can work where we choose, live where we want, and worship according to our own beliefs. It is men like Charles who have made the United States the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
I am very thankful for all of you, men and women, who have served in our armed forces. Thank you for your sacrifice and dedication to our country.
On Sunday, June 29, at 6 p.m. and Monday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m., we will be hosting our second annual Singing Flag to honor those who have paid the price for our freedom.
This year the choir at Jasper’s First Baptist Church, under the direction of the Rev. Ken Nuss, will be presenting an all new tribute to the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
Admission is free, and the whole community is cordially invited. Wear your red, white and blue and enjoy the drama and the music provided by our adults and children.
Please make plans to be here this year and invite a friend.
This is our gift to the community.
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is the senior pastor at Jasper’s First Baptist Church. The church’s website is www.jaspersfbc.org.