BY KEN LITTLE
John Reed Sr. spent World War II in the Pacific Theater of operations.
Reed's service in a U.S. Navy amphibious training unit took him to Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines and other island outposts recently captured from the Japanese.
Reed was honored with a Quilt of Valor Sunday by members of the Greene County Quilters group.
The presentation had special significance for quilter Pinky Byrd, who is Reed's niece. Byrd nominated Reed for the honor and is a member of the Greene County Quilters.
Reed, who just turned 90 last week, joined the Navy in 1943 and went through basic training in San Diego, Calif. From there, it was 17 days on a ship to Sydney, Australia.
"We zig-zagged all the way," Reed recalled.
MECHANIZED LANDING CRAFT
Reed spent six months in Brisbane, Australia, training Army personnel on the use of an LCM -- also known as a mechanized landing craft -- capable of carrying a tank or other heavy equipment onto invasion beaches.
Reed, a petty officer third class, and ship's pilot, continued his training activities with other troops in New Guinea, then New Caledonia. He was stationed on the island of Luzon in the Philippines at war's end.
"When they dropped the (atomic) bomb, that's where I was," he said.
Like most service members, Reed was expecting to participate in the upcoming invasion of Japan. Those plans changed with the surrender of Japan on Sept. 2, 1945, a few weeks after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
While Reed was never involved in combat personally, he trained many men in the operation of LCMs used in a number of the allied forces' island invasions of the Pacific war.
It was not easy to navigate the cumbersome landing craft with a 30-ton tank on board.
"We hit the beach with them," he said.
ACTIVE IN VFW
Reed completed his Navy service in early 1946.
After returning to Greene County after the war, he was active for years in Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1990 here.
Among his VFW activities, he was a member of the widely-known Greeneville VFW Drum & Bugle Corps, called "The Presidents," and traveled the U.S. with the group.
On one trip to California in 1952, "The Presidents" had a stopover in Denver. In a hotel there, he got to shake hands with then-presidential candidate Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had been the supreme allied commander for the D-Day Invasion.
At a VFW convention in New York City in 1958, Reed and his wife, Billie Jo, ended up on a television quiz show hosted by Merv Griffin called "Play Your Hunch." The couple won a trip to Europe, Reed said.
Billie Jo Reed passed away in 2008.
'DIDN'T GET HOMESICK'
Reed worked for Interstate Vending here for 38 years following the war.
Reed said he is proud to have served in the military and to have done his part in World War II.
"I was so far away from here I didn't get homesick," he said.
Reed enjoyed his job training U.S. Army personnel and U.S. Marines in operation of the landing craft, and expressed appreciaion for the Quilt of Valor recognition.
'GLAD I SERVED'
"I'm glad I served," he said.
Reed was also proud of his family gathered by his side on Sunday. Like many families in Greene County, the Reeds have a tradition of military service.
One grandchild, Andrew Reed, is an Air Force captain and recently served in Afghanistan.
His other grandchildren are Alison Reed Ashe and Kelli Reed Rose, who was on hand Sunday with husband Matthew and John Reed's great-grandson, Bryson.
Reed's sons, John Reed Jr. and Jack Reed, were also both present for the Quilt of Valor presentation, along with their wives, Genevieve and Betsy, respectively.
'ALWAYS A POSITIVE INFLUENCE'
Jack Reed said his dad's own father died when he was an infant.
"While in the Pacific theater, it took over six months for him to know that his grandfather, who helped raise him, had died," Jack Reed said.
John Reed Sr. has been an active member of Reformation Lutheran Church in Greeneville for 67 years.
"My dad has always been a positive influence in the lives of those around him. He is a great example of a person who approaches life's work and life's challenges with enthusiasm and a positive spirit," Jack Reed said.
John Reed Sr. and others who fought World War II "were truly the greatest generation, absolutely. We could take a lesson from them," Jack Reed said.
"I'm proud of his service, and I'm proud of him just being my dad," he said. "He's a perfect dad."
15 QUILTS PRESENTED
The Quilts of Valor Foundation was founded about 10 years ago by a Delaware mother whose son was serving in Iraq.
Her goal was to see that returning veterans "were welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved," according to the website of the non-profit Quilts of Valor Foundation, http://www.qovf.org/.
Many of the quilts are given to hospitalized soldiers recovering from their wounds. Quilts are also presented to active and past members of the armed services who served in times of war.
About 15 Greene County veterans have recently received a Quilt of Valor, said Gail Burnett of the Mosheim-based Greene County Quilters group.