New DSS building to honor Greene

Published 1:06 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Howard Greenes 91-year record of service to his country and his community will be remembered.

On Monday night, the Polk County Board of Commissioners added his name to the list of outstanding citizens for whom public facilities in the county are named, such as Medal of Honor winner Bryant H. Womack (county administration building), longtime county attorney R. Jay Foster (county board meeting room), activist for the elderly, and Don Freeman (adult day care center).

The new Department of Social Services building, for which site grading will begin soon near Polk County Middle School, will be named for&bsp; Greene, an outstanding citizen, distinguished veteran, retired business leader, tireless volunteer and civic activist.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In making the motion to so honor Greene, commissioner Ray Gasperson said, Your story, from your military service to community involvement, will serve as an inspiration to those that walk the halls of our new building for decades to come.

Gasperson and board chairman Cindy Walker read a long presentation outlining Greenes accomplishments.

For Howard Greene, growing up and working hard on a family farm located in the Sandy Plains section of the Green Creek Community of Polk County during the Great Depression, attending and excelling as a student at the Green Creek school, and being part of a close knit community and family all gave him the skills and work ethic to service the most extreme of combat action during WWII, Gasperson said.

After serving in various other positions in the Army, Greene was sent to England in 1944 to prepare for the invasion of Europe. He was picked to become an Army Ranger and then selected for additional specialized training by the British Commandoes so he could operate behind enemy lines.

From the day he hit Omaha Beach with the D-Day invasion, Greene continued day and night to crawl, walk and run… not in a straight line, but in a zigzag pattern, across Europe, Gasperson said.

Cindy (Walker) and I were transfixed by the incredible stories of Howards combat action, Gasperson said, much of it behind enemy lines. He experienced may weeks of eyeball-to-eyeball fighting through Western France, many weeks in the Huertgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, crossing the Rhine and on into Germany.

Greene had one period in which he spent 154 days straight in combat action so fierce that new recruits were lucky if they made it five days without being killed or wounded, Gasperson said.

For his service, Greene over 35 years achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, and earned 22 medals, including the Purple heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, four Battle Stars and the Bronze Star.

When he returned to Polk County, Greene went to work, both in business and in the community. In 1951, he and Joe Kerby established G&K Furniture in downtown Columbus, a business Greene ran for 35 years. In addition, he has between 50 and 66 year-long records of membership and service with eight church and civic organizations in the area. He continues those involvements and volunteers even to this day with the hospital, Outreach, and by driving veterans to appointments at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Oteen.

Howard Greene is a doer, always ready to lend a hand, Walker said. Throughout his life, Howard has always made time for our community.

While all applauded Greenes record of service, the vote to name the new Social Services building after him was not unanimous. Commissioners Warren Watson and Tommy Melton, in the first of several 3-2 votes Monday night, said they just thought the naming motion was premature.

Watson said that while he believed Howard Greene was worthy of the honor, he thought the timing was wrong to be naming a new building. We have not even built the building or finalized the budget, Watson said. I hate to be the sayer of no, but there are things to consider.

Melton said he did not want to get into a contest of who loved Howard Greene most, because he certainly was among the top in that category.

I have known Howard Greene all my life, Melton said. He has done it all, given his life for Polk County. But there other veterans in the community I think that deserve the opportunity to be considered. I believe there are 3,300 veterans in Polk County.

Commissioner Renee McDermott responded, We do very much appreciate all the veterans in our community, heartfelt appreciation. But this is not an election. We all recognize Mr. Greene as an exceptional veteran and volunteer and I think we should go forward.

After the commissioners were finished with discussion, chairman Walker called for a motion, which was made by Gasperson, seconded by McDermott and passed 3-2 with Walkers vote.