2 set for induction

Published 3:31 am Friday, October 30, 2009

DEMOPOLIS — It is a rare achievement for someone from our area to be honored on the state level — even rarer when two area natives are already so richly decorated.

Today at 10:30 a.m., Demopolis resident Col. Julian “Buzz” Sawyer and Gallion native Gen. John W. Collins III will be inducted into the Alabama Military Hall of Honor at Marion Military Institute, joining the ranks of Rear Admiral Bryan W. Compton, a Demopolis native who was inducted into the Hall of Honor in 2000.

The Hall of Honor was established on Jan. 23, 1975, to honor Alabama’s military heroes and to provide a permanent and visible tribute to them. Inductees are honored with a 20-by-30-inch bronze plaque with their likeness. The museum also displays a variety of military memorabilia, such as weapons, uniforms, patches and photographs.

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“I think it’s really nice,” Collins said from his home in San Antonio, Texas. “I was born in Alabama, raised in Alabama, and I went to school in Alabama — in the Demopolis school system for 12 years. I have a daughter and three grandchildren who live in Birmingham. I have always considered myself an Alabamian.

“I think it’s a great honor. I am very appreciative of the board to select me into the Hall of Honor.”

Collins was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943 and served in World War II in Europe. He also served in ground troops in the Korean War and in the Vietnam War.

“I’m lucky to be 88 years old,” he said. “I’m living way beyond what I ever anticipated to be, because being in the infantry, I’ve been shot at quite a few times. I think the key to the whole thing is good luck and good genes.”

Collins earned two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with a star.

Sawyer, who served three tours of duty during the Vietnam War as a wing commander and fighter pilot, is the manager of the Demopolis Regional Airport.

“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “It’s an honor to be selected and inducted. It’s also an honor for me to be inducted along with Gen. Collins. He’s got quite a background, having served in Vietnam on the ground; he had a tough war.”

Sawyer earned the Silver Star, five Distinguished Flying Crosses and 23 air medals. He was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for helping to save an injured crewman when an aircraft crash-landed and burst into flames at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, S.C., on Sept. 24, 1959.

Two Marengo Countians will enter the Alabama Military Hall of Honor today, having their names and feats forever emblazoned on a plaque to be displayed for the lifetime of the hall.