Polk commissioners honor veteran Howard Greene

Published 1:18 pm Friday, August 6, 2010

Editor’s note: The following is the full text of the presentation made to the Polk County Board of Commissioners Monday night by commissioners Ray Gasperson and Cindy Walker in support of naming the new Polk County Department of Social Services building for Howard Greene.

For all of us, the land, community, and family we come of age with shapes the destiny of our lives. 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 public school, and being part of a close knit community and family gave him the skills and work ethic to survive the most extreme of combat action during WW II.

He returned to his beloved Polk County after the war, ran a successful small business, and became a citizen who would constantly be giving back to his community, especially through his volunteer actions. Even today, at age 91, Howard has not slowed down in his efforts to make our community a better place to live, work and raise a family.

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In the months preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor in early 1941, Howard at age 21 received a draft notice. He was sent to a newly constructed army base in Macon, Georgia. This base was so new that one of the first jobs given to him and the new recruits was to pick the cotton still in rows between the barracks and pull up the plants.

After life on the farm Howard found the Army, unlike his fellow recruits from the cities, to be like a long extended vacation. His life further improved after it was discovered that he could type 65 words a minute without making a mistake. This skill got him out of the hot Georgia sun and into the shade working as a company clerk. His promotions came quickly and as the war progressed, he was sent to Fort Mead, Maryland and played a major role in troop deployments to the Pacific and to Europe.

It would have been easy for Howard to remain in this important position, but as he told me and Cindy the other day, he was no better than anyone else and that he too should be willing to go and serve on the front lines of the war effort. Early in 1944, Howard married Mary his wife now of 66 years, and was sent to England to prepare for the invasion of Europe. He was picked to become an Army Ranger, and then he and 39 others were also selected to be given additional specialized training by British Commandos so they could operate behind enemy lines.

On D-Day, Howard was among the first troops to hit Omaha Beach scaling the steep, slippery 200-foot high cliffs, laden with mines, and constantly under enemy fire. After surviving the invasion, he became part of the 28th Infantry Regiment. Howard said that he continued day and night to crawl, walk, and run. Not in a straight line, but in a zigzag pattern across Europe.

Cindy and I were transfixed by the incredible stories of Howards combat action, much of it behind enemy lines. He experienced many months of eyeball to eyeball fighting thru Western France, many weeks in the Huertgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, crossing the Rhine and on into Germany. He also spoke of the freezing 40 degree below 0 winter weather without having proper clothing, the constant fatigue, the filthy conditions and the agony of not receiving news from love ones at home.

Howard had one extended period of 154 days of combat action during a time when a new solder on the front lines was lucky if they made it 5 days before they were wounded or killed.

Im convinced that Howards bravery and combat actions, especially behind enemy lines, helped save hundreds, perhaps thousands of Allied troop lives.&bsp;&bsp; Howard was connected with the Army for a total of 35 years.&bsp; He achieved the rank of Chief Warrant Office.&bsp; He earned 22 medals, including the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, four Battle Stars and the Bronze Star.

Howard told us several times when talking about those medals, awards and promotions that none of that mattered to him, I just wanted the war to be over and to be able to come home to my wife and family.

After World War II, Howard returned home to Polk County.&bsp; He worked for Industrial Insurance Company and Avant Electrical Company before his call back to duty in the Korean War.

Back home again in 1951, Howard Greene and Joe Kerby bought the Hugh Hill Building in Columbus (the present home of Watsons Appliances and Floor Coverings); together they established the G & K Furniture and Appliance store.&bsp; Howard became the sole owner in 1960. For 35 years he furnished the homes of Polk County, sometimes giving away needed items to those who had lost their homes to fire. &bsp;

Howard Greene is a doer always ready to lend a hand.&bsp; Throughout his life, Howard has always made time for our community. Many of you may recall seeing Howard and Mary, his devoted wife of 66 years, chaperoning your sock hops in the school gym and preparing hamburger steak suppers for the football team.


66 years American Legion (8 years Commander)

62 years of Perfect Attendance in the Tryon Kiwanis

65 years VFW

55 years 32nd degree Mason

53 years Tryon 1st Baptist Church (Retired Deacon)

52 years Tryon Riding and Hunt Club

51 years Shriners

51 years Scottish rite of Free Masons

Howard was inducted into the 2nd Wind Hall of Fame in 1999. He is a WNC Military Office Association of America and a retired member of the 108th Infantry Division.&bsp; He was voted Polk County Citizen of the Year in 2010.

Howard has volunteered with Thermal Belt Outreach and St. Luke’s Hospital. He has worn out two cars in 11 years of driving local veterans to the V.A. Hospital. &bsp;

When I first spoke to Howard and his wife, Mary, two weeks ago about naming our new building after him, he was (in typical Howard fashion) reluctant, Why me? he said.

They then sat and listened patiently as I described the full spectrum of services that DSS provides: protecting children and the elderly, and all ages in-between, regardless of race income or age. I explained that the face of Social Services has, over the years, changed.

Your story I said, 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.

After listening to me for a bit, Howard said, Its okay that you name this building for me.