BY ANNIE CRENSHAW
People show patriotism when they salute their country’s flag, sing the national anthem, or celebrate their nation’s “birth” or Independence Day from another governing entity.
A patriotic person knows what the country stands for, its history, and the sacrifices that have been made to create it and keep it.
And, military service is one of the most important aspects of patriotism. It’s one of our country’s oldest – and most dangerous – types of public service.
The U.S. president may be the “Commander in Chief,” but he’s not required to be a military veteran. It’s the everyday men and women of our country who make the military what it is today, and help us enjoy the rights and freedoms of being Americans.
Without the sacrifices of those military personnel, can you imagine the lives we might be living today? We might still be a British colony (as a primary possibility), or we might be living under a Japanese emperor, or under the rule of a German successor to Adolph Hitler.
Having an effective military force is a crucial part of being a free land and people.
The United States military offers a way for citizens to be actively patriotic, to help their country and help others.
It’s a career that strongly affects their own lives, as well.
Just ask Bruce Raymond Perdue of the Daisy/Steiner’s Store community in northeast Butler County, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
He was honored at this special event at his home by his four daughters, two granddaughters of his eight grandchildren, and five of his thirteen great-grandchildren.
Other family members, neighbors and friends celebrated and congratulated the honoree by taking part in a drive-by parade with birthday banners and decorations.
Patriotism runs strong in the Perdue family.
Bruce Perdue, with his older brothers, the late Willie George Perdue and Joseph Henry Perdue, served a total of over 70 years in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.
These three brothers from northeast Butler County spent their lives serving their country.
Bruce Perdue, son of Zell Payton Perdue and Frances Andress, is a 6th generation Butler County native.
Born April 30, 1931, he graduated from Greenville High School in 1949. Just a few months later, in September 1949, he began his 25-year career in the United States Air Force.
“When I was a boy, I always had a hankering for the military,” he said.
“We played marbles and baseball, not soldiers, but my two older brothers were already in the military by the time I graduated from high school. They served in World War II, starting off in the Army and then transferring to the Air Force when it was created,” he explained.
“They were a big influence on me choosing the military as a career.”
“I remember when Pearl Harbor happened,” he recalled.
“I was 10 years old. We heard it on the radio; nobody had television back then. I remember going down to my cousin’s house to tell her about it, since she didn’t have a radio. The grown-ups were saying we would get even with Japan for that sneak attack. That’s the way everybody felt. Local boys were joining the army and ready to fight. There was a lot of patriotism.”
Bruce’s brother, Willie George Perdue (1919-1995), joined the Alabama National Guard after graduating from high school. When World War II began, Willie transferred to the U.S. Army and became a Heavy Truck Operator with the 131st OMTC Regiment, later re-designated the 3584th Quartermaster Truck Company.
Willie’s overseas service during World War II included duty in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He took part in the Normandy invasion, and earned many medals, citations and decorations, including five Bronze Stars.
After his U.S. Army service during the war, Willie George Perdue enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served another 25 years, including duty during the Korean conflict. He retired as a Master Sergeant, USAF, in 1965.
Bruce and Willie’s brother, Joseph Henry “Joe” Perdue (1921-1989), worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps before signing up with the U.S. Army in 1942.
Joe Perdue served nearly two years overseas with the Ordnance Depot Company during World War II. He participated in five engagements, including the Rhineland, Northern France, and Normandy campaigns.
In addition to his ordnance work, Joe participated in guarding prisoners-of-war.
Like his brother Willie, Joe Perdue received many medals and citations, including the European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with three Bronze Stars.
After his discharge from the Army in 1945 as a Private First Class, Duty Soldier III, Joe served briefly in the Alabama National Guard, and then joined the U.S. Air Force in December 1949.
He retired in 1966 as a Staff Sergeant, USAF 4648th Support Group, after 20 years’ service with the Air Force.
What about Bruce Raymond Perdue?
Influenced by his older brothers’ military service and dedication to their careers, Bruce Perdue joined the Air Force in 1949.
However, he originally intended to join the Navy.
“When I graduated from high school in 1949, I looked at the career and retirement benefits and other things about the military, and decided to join the Navy,” he described.
“I was playing the bass horn in high school and thought I’d get started in the Navy that way, with the band. Three of us played bass horn in the school band: me and Gene Roper and Graham Mullins. We were ‘All State’ three years in a row.”
“There was a big band audition I was supposed to go to, but I’d had some teeth pulled and my mouth wasn’t healed yet, so I couldn’t play my bass horn and couldn’t take part in that audition.”
“I talked with the Navy about joining right up, without getting in through the band position. I wanted to go to San Diego, but they were sending people to Chicago. That was too cold! They told me I’d have to wait two months to get to go to California.”
“So I checked with the Air Force, and they were sending people to San Antonio right away, no waiting. That was a warm enough place! So I joined the Air Force.”
Bruce Perdue served in the Korean Conflict and Vietnam during his 25-year enlistment.
He entered the Air Force on Sept. 13, 1949, and received his basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas.
He received his Ground Electronics Maintenance and Communications Operators training at Scott AFB, Illinois, and Keesler AFB, Mississippi.
Later in his career, he served at Keesler as an instructor, instructor supervisor, and department manager, training electronic technicians/operators from not only the United States but from many nations all over the world.
His military instructor experience earned his two assignments with the Military Assistance and Advisor Group (MAAG) in training the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam electronics/operator personnel.
“I was at Jobson AFB near Tokyo for 13 months,” he said. “About a month after I got there, I was sent to Taiwan. I was Director of Communications for six months, all by myself, responsible for all the messages going in and out. I had to approve EVERYTHING, even messages by the highest-ranking officers. Some of them didn’t like that! They didn’t want their messages to have to be ‘approved.’ But, that was my job.”
“I was in Vietnam for 13 months, during the height of the conflict. We were mostly in Saigon and not out in the jungle and deltas.”
“The military had taken over one of Saigon’s best hotels and that was our headquarters. We worked with communications – airports and landing fields, control towers, things like that. We weren’t out fighting, but we were doing an important job.”
During his military career, Bruce Perdue was stationed at Lackland AFB, Texas; Scott AFB, Illinois; Keesler AFB, Mississippi; Robbins AFB, Georgia; Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota; Silver Lake AFS and Nasalle AFS, Washington; Fort Stevens AFS, Oregon; Hamilton AFB, and Vandenburg AFB, California; as well as overseas assignments in Japan, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam.
He served two years as a member of the Air Force Inspecting General office when he was stationed in California, 1960-1962, performing inspections of Air Force maintenance facilities in 10 western states to ensure that they were operationally ready.
He was the computer maintenance director and senior enlisted advisor to the Commander of the Western Test Range of Space and Missile Testing Command at Vandenburg, AFB, California, at the time of his retirement from the Air Force on Sept. 1, 1974, as a Senior Master Sergeant.
During his military career, Bruce Perdue received numerous medals, decorations and citations. Some of his awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal w/2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/2 OLC, Army Good Conduct medal w/4 loops, Air Force Good Conduct Medal w/4 OLC, National Defense Service Medal w/1 star, Armed Forces Expedition Medal, China Service Medal, OLC, Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon, Short Tour w/1 OLC, Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon w/5 OLC, NCOI Academy Ribbon w/1 star (Honor Graduate), Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon w/Rifle and Pistol, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal w/4 overseas hash marks.
After his retirement from the military in 1974, Bruce worked for 20 years with Litton Industries, a private corporation, developing and installing radar on Navy ships at Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
He married Edna Louise Lowery of Hueytown, Alabama, in 1951, daughter of John P. and Audrey Lowery. They have four daughters: Cindy Carpenter of Ocean Springs, MS; Sherry Amadon of Kenner, LA; Angela Simmons of Lapine, AL, and Renee Goss of the Daisy/Steiner’s Store Community. Edna Louise died in 2009.
After his final retirement in 1994, Bruce and his family moved back to the Perdue home place in northeast Butler County.
He lives today on land originally settled by his Perdue ancestors in the 1830s.
Family means a lot to Bruce Raymond Perdue.
“To me, the worst part about places like Vietnam and Korea was that we were on isolated duty,” he said. “We couldn’t take our families. It was always a lonesome job.”
Asked about his career choices, he said: “I was very satisfied and happy with my career in the Air Force. It was what I wanted to do.”
What about the promotions, medals and citations for his military service?
Promotion to senior master sergeant (the rank at which he retired) is the most difficult enlisted promotion to attain in the Air Force and Space Force. And, Bruce Perdue was at the E-8 pay level, being considered for E-9.
Men selected for promotion to senior master sergeant typically have “vast technical and leadership experience gained from a broad variety of assignments at both line and staff functions throughout their careers,” states an Air Force information article.
“I figured that I was just in the right place at the right time,” he said.
“Today I’m not so sure that the younger folks have the patriotism that we had, but I’ve got a grandson and a great-grandson in the military, and they like it and are doing fine.”
Patriotic Perdues are continuing the family tradition.