Veterans to be honored at July 4 Hometown Celebration
One of the most important parts of Plaquemine’s July 4th Hometown Celebration is honoring local veterans. This year’s eight veteran honorees include 102-year-old Felton Henry, one of few of Iberville’s living World War II veterans; Sidney Babin, Lionel Templet, Ruel Seneca, Sr., Deborah Dickerson, Alma Lineberry, and Mary and Ronald Barnhizer.
The honorees kick off festivities by serving as the grand marshals of the July 4th boat parade. The boat parade begins at 5:30 p.m. in Bayou Plaquemine and ends at the Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park at about 5:50 p.m. They will move to the bayou boardwalk, where they will be honored in a brief ceremony at 6 p.m.
Last week we featured Felton Henry, Sidney Babin, Lionel Templet and Ruel Seneca, Sr. This article features the other four honorees:
DEBORAH DICKERSON: A native of Plaquemine, Deborah found her way into the military after a short time at Southern University. “I decided to try the Army. My family didn’t like it, but I went,” she said.
Her military career spanned 10 years, and stints in New Jersey, Washington, DC, Germany, South Carolina and Egypt, where she worked with representatives of 11 nations in a compound. The experience taught her much about understanding other cultures.
After being trained in human resources, she was assigned to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. Wanting to see the world, she asked to go to Germany, and two years later she was sent there. “I was part of the Air Defense Unit,” she says. “The men were OK with it as long as I did the paperwork. It was my job to make sure the soldiers and their families got what they were entitled to, and I was in the top 10 percent of personnel in my field,” she said.
She stayed in Germany four years, and then was assigned to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, in administration. She later was assigned to go to Egypt as a U.S. military liaison. “I stayed in a compound with representatives of 11 nations and had to learn their cultures and to stay within my culture,” she said. “I learned - I allowed a guy from Fiji to hold my hand, and in Fiji they consider that consent to marry him!”
But she said the exposure to so many different cultures was one of her favorite things about being in the military, along with showing others the good of Americans and African Americans. She ended her career as a Staff Sergeant.
Dickerson is now on medical disability because the military plane she was flying in to Egypt suddenly dropped in the sky and the radical fall busted her eardrums, which has resulted in permanent vertigo. She met her good friend, Alma Lineberry, while serving in Germany, and they now operate D’s Soul Food Café on Main Street in Plaquemine.
ALMA LINEBERRY: Originally from West Virginia, Lineberry was in the Army for 10 years. She started out in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where she was trained in laying cable, connecting and repairing communications equipment. She went on to be stationed in Germany, Korea and Kentucky; at one point being taught how to repel out of helicopters.
“I liked to travel and experience new cultures, and I saw all of Europe while I was there,” she said. She was the only female in her platoon, and one of few women trained in signal communications. Harassment from the men was an on-going problem. “Once I was promoted to sergeant, it was challenging because they didn’t like a woman in charge,” she said.
She knew she was going into the military from a young age. “Three of my siblings were in the military, and it was the best decision for me. It forced me to grow up and I am a much more open minded person because I experienced different cultures and ways. Germany was like walking into a fairy tale, it was beautiful. I got on trains and went everywhere (in Europe),” she said. While Desert Storm was underway during her tenure in the military, she was not assigned there.
She received numerous medals for her service, including the National Defense Service Medal. She and Deborah remained good friends after their military stint in Germany, and after both got out of the military they operated a daycare in South Carolina for a time. Lineberry also adopted a boy from Guatemala, Bradley, who now attends Plaquemine High School. Dickerson eventually moved back to Plaquemine to help care for an aunt, and Lineberry followed to help operate their restaurant, D’s Soul Food Café, in Plaquemine.
MARY AND RON BARNHIZER: Mary Sciortino came from a hard working family in White Castle, with a rich tradition of military service. “My Dad and uncles all served, and my grandfather was in World War I, so I wanted to serve,” she said. She joined the Women’s Army Corps and was first stationed in Alabama, and then was transferred to Ft. Sam Houston in Texas for training as a medic.
It was there that she met her future husband, Ron Barnhizer, who was also training as a medic. He was from a large family in Ohio, and he decided to join the military so that he wouldn’t be a burden on his father. It helped that his father had served in World War II, and two brothers also served in the military.
Barnhizer proposed to Mary just six weeks after they first met. After training, Mary got transferred to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, while Ron got transferred to Ft. Leonard, Missouri. They married within a year, and Congressman Gillis Long assisted her in getting a compassionate reassignment to Ft. Leonard. But, it wasn’t long before Mary became pregnant and was honorably discharged from the military.
“In those days, when you got pregnant, you had to leave the military,” she said. The couple remained at Ft. Leonard until Ron’s discharge from the military about a year and eight months later. He served as both a medical specialist and a secondary records clerk.
“After my training, I originally got orders to go to Korea because the Vietnam War was underway, but I had one brother in the Navy and another in Vietnam, so once they realized that three brothers were serving, they sent me to Ft. Leonard,” Ron said. “We had friends who went to Vietnam,” he said. “While Mary was serving in Ft. Leonard, she secured rehab placements for veterans who returned from the war with drug problems. It was sad.”
“This was the end of the Vietnam War and the military was wanting people to get out,” he said. The couple, with a young child, returned to Louisiana, and he worked for a time at the family grocery story, Sciortino’s Grocery in White Castle. They ended up back in Ohio for about two years, but the bad economy in Ohio at the time led them back to Iberville, where they have remained. Now married 45 years, they live in Plaquemine.