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Sunday, May 18, 2003

By Staff
Semper Fi'
To the editor:
These are words that myself and many other men I know have learned to live by and, many times, die by. It does not matter where you came from in the great USA or who your family was, but these words describe how special men and women live. This is the motto of the United States Marine Corps, "Always Faithful."
I have followed with great interest the saga of the 186th Air Refueling Wing, our hometown Air National Guard unit, but from what I know about this story, it is a story about the entire Mississippi National Guard. I grew up in Meridian and joined the Marines right out of high school for the opportunity to become a Vietnam veteran, a duty I have never regretted.
Living in Meridian most of my life, I have had the opportunity to meet and be friends with numerous Guard members. Many of these men and women have made the National Guard their careers. I have judged the majority of these people as some of the finest people I have ever known, but they had one single theme when they talked about the promotions and awards of the National Guard you have to be a part of the clique or "Good Ole Boy system" in order to get ahead.
Now we have one of our local leaders to step up and dare to say these things publicly and many people are at arms that he has attacked the "Guard." This man has had the guts to come forward to try and correct the wrongs committed against his fellow Airmen.
Virtually every charge this man has made has been substantiated by an independent U.S. Air Force investigation.
There is another part of the story I want to personally share. This man has been one of my friends throughout this ordeal. I know personally that he has left no stone unturned in his quest for justice for all. He started his contacts with the Fordice administration over four years ago trying to explain this story on a private basis. Then he turned to the Musgrove administration to continue the same process.
I know personally that up until he went to the news media, that being almost three months after an independent investigation proved criminal behavior with no action taken, he had provided both Maj. Gen. Lipscomb and Gov. Musgrove a complete account of what had happened and what he would do next. So to imply he did not give these so-called leaders time to make a decision is pure bunk.
How could these men let three years pass without ever checking to see if money or items had been stolen from the USAF? Obviously, they did not want to know the real answers. The poor working men I know would have been hauled off to the pokey immediately should they have committed these acts.
It appears there is a double system. One system for the affluent, the other for the down-trodden, whom this man, Jody Bryant, has tried to defend.
I find it amazing through the years how many of these men have been referred to as General Fred or Colonel Weaver and Colonel Temple in the local area. It reminds me of a quote: "Celebrated people lose dignity upon a closer view." Off base, I thought everyone is a Mister or Miss.
I met Jody many years back; I never knew he was a colonel from his conversations with me. As I began to know him better, I did realize that he believed in the saying, "Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone." Jody Bryant started this campaign to correct the many inequities in the National Guard system. Maj. Gen. Lipscomb and Gov. Musgrove have failed to calculate this man's resolve. He has the silent majority of military members and public on his side, but most important he is RIGHT.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Maj. Gen. James Lipscomb and Maj. Gen. Harold Cross are failures. They knew that this situation was real three years ago but hoped it would go away.
Remember these words in November. The truth requires action! I would have been proud to have served with a true leader like Jody Bryant; he should have been a Marine. He is faithful to the Corps.
P.S.: I commend The Meridian Star and its editor, Mr. Buddy Bynum, for the fact-filled, unbiased coverage of this despicable story.
Charles Thrasher
Union

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