Welcome to VZW's Military Tributes
L-R: Starlin H. Hughes, Vincent Z. Whaley, and Lewis D. Whaley (Photo Circa 1993)
incent Z. Whaley's Military Tributes Web site is dedicated to my father, Lewis D. Whaley, and my late grandfather, Starlin H. Hughes.

During a dark time when the Berlin Wall was being built in the early 1960s, my father was stationed with the 596th Signal Support Company, 97th Signal Battalion, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Specialist 4th-Class Whaley was among many soldiers wearing the blue, gold, and red patch representing the 7th Army — also known as the "Seven Steps to Hell" — upholding peace and democracy in Europe during the Cold War.

While stationed in Kaiserslautern, Spc.-4 Whaley served as a Radio Relay/Telephone and Teletype Carrier Operator. Spc.-4 Whaley served in the United States Army from 1961-1964. He underwent basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and advanced individual training at Southeastern Signal School, Fort Gordon, Georgia. Whaley then traveled to Kaiserslautern, Germany, where he was stationed at Pulaski Barracks from 1961-1963.

Lewis D. Whaley (Photo Circa 1964)
Whaley was born in 1944 — just days before history's largest D-Day invasion in Normandy, France — to Paul and Lou Elswick Whaley. Having lived through the Great Depression, my grandparents gave my father all of their kind, loving, and hard-working attributes, resulting in the most understanding and compassionate father in the world. My Dad guided me at an early age to realize the importance of having an enjoyable career. An inspiration to all of my family for his vast knowledge of computers, my father continues to unravel technological mysteries for me.

Once after my mother and father brought me home from a showing of Star Wars in 1977, I chose to draw pictures and write stories to follow up on the movie. My mother, Mollie Hughes Whaley, and my father would always read my short stories and gaze at my silly art with high praise. I continued writing small sequels to many other movies, and while my sequel to Star Wars unfortunately did not become Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back, my father once suggested journalism and/or writing as my career. I can remember replying with something like, "Are you kidding, Dad? I don't think so!"

Following 10 years as a journalist for the Johnson City Press newspaper in Johnson City, Tennessee, I chose to fuse my knowledge of journalism, research, and writing with years of technological expertise from my father to become a Web site and graphic designer.

While the latter is a neverending path of learning for me, I want to thank my mother and father for always providing my two sisters, Kimberly and Nikki, and me with an over-abundance of dependability, honesty, generosity, and, most importantly, unconditional love. Thanks to my mother and father for being born.

Starlin H. Hughes (Photo Circa 1941)
As for my late grandfather, Hughes served as a Private First Class with the 47th "Raiders" Infantry Regiment in the 9th "Octofoil" Infantry Division during World War II. Hughes died June 11, 1994 — exactly 50 years to the day when he stepped ashore Utah Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day-plus-five. Hughes passed away at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, Tennessee, where he retired after many years of service.

Following the Dec. 7, 1941, tragedy at Pearl Harbor, Hughes was shipped with thousands of other GIs to North Africa at the end of October 1942. On Nov. 8, 1942, Hughes participated in the first D-Day of America's involvement in World War II on the shores of Safi, French Morocco, during "Operation Torch."

Hughes went on to serve in seven of the 9th Infantry Division's eight Second World War campaigns — Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, and Rhineland. At the end of the war in 1945, Hughes had acquired enough points to return home instead of having to serve in the final campaign of occupation in Central Europe.

After returning home a decorated soldier, Hughes married Mildred Louise Leonard, who had worked as a seamstress to help supply soldiers with uniforms and other clothing during the war effort on the homefront. The Hugheses eventually gave birth to my mother and a son, Richard Steven Hughes, who went on to help give my grandparents a gorgeous granddaughter, Camille Marie Hughes.

As a youngster, I would travel frequently with my grandfather to his childhood home in North Carolina to hunt and fish and enjoy the breathtaking mountains and wildlife that he fought to protect. My grandfather, however, could never speak of his time in the Army during the war. The mere mention of the war would bring tears to his eyes. Following his death in 1994, I began a task of researching his wartime steps — a hobby that eventually led to this Web site and tons of research to write a book retracing the 9th Infantry Division during World War II.

I would like to thank my grandfather for all of those wonderful years we spent together and for teaching me the value of patience, even though I still have a long way to go. Thanks to my grandmother for all she has done for me through the years, for being a "Rosie the Riveter," and giving that guy overseas a beautiful face for which to fight and make it home.

I want to thank my good friend at the Johnson City Press, Managing Editor Henry Samples, for many years of conversations about life, love, history, the military, war, and writing. You helped give me the courage to write a book about my grandfather and pay tribute to all veterans. A great deal of appreciation also goes out to my boss, Johnson City Press Technology Manager Alan Broyles, for giving me the confidence and tools to expand my knowledge of Web and graphic design. Alan also helped give me the best job I have ever had.

I love you all,

Vincent Z. Whaley
April 2002

596th Signal Support Co., 97th Signal Battalion
47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division
Stories by Vincent Z. Whaley

All photographs, images, and stories:
Copyright © 1996-2010  By Vincent Z. Whaley All Rights Reserved
Used Only Under Authorization

All photographs, graphics, and stories may be used only for personal research
and with written consent from the author and Webmaster:
Vincent Z. Whaley

Web Site and Graphic Design by Vincent Z. Whaley