RUSTBURG, VA - On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the service career of a member of our Campbell community, John Samuel Jennings.
Jennings, a lifelong Brookneal resident was born on April 4 1923, into a family of tobacco farmers.
"We did hard work," Jennings remembers from the comfort of his easy chair, as he looks at his hands, worn from years of labor.
"All this land you see, was once wooded. It had to be cleared. We'd get a team together, hook up horses. We get in there and dig up roots around them stumps, cut 'em off, clean it up, and plant a crop on it," Jennings said.
He shares memories of how times have changed from his simple upbringing, and remembers his time growing up on the same land he calls home today.
"When I was coming up, vehicles were rare; most of us got around by walking, or horse and buggy. These days, you don't see many horses any more," Jennings remarks.
As a young man, Jennings was a student of the former Naruna High School (now William Campbell Combined School), until his graduation, when he dedicated his life to the family's farm - until World War II began, and Uncle Sam needed recruits.
From Basic Training to the Battle of the Bulge
On July 13, 1943, Jennings answered our nation's call, and registered for entrance into the Army.
Once his exam was complete, he was immediately dispatched to the U.S. Army base camp, and from there, straight into active duty.
"As soon as I could, I enlisted," said Mr. Jennings. "I was proud to serve; I love my country, and I love people."
Mr. Jennings served in the United States Army as an infantrymen from 1943-1945.
It was during this term of service, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he suffered a severe knee injury from shrapnel on Christmas Day (1944) and had to wait over sixteen hours for extraction from the field (He laid on the ground for 6 hours before treatment, and then another 10 before extraction).
"I laid, wounded, and worried over what would happen if there was a counter-attack," remarks Jennings. "I was unable to move, and had nowhere to go."
After his extraction, he had surgery, and was hospitalized for six months until the end of the war, and eventually, released from service.
"Others were celebrating the end of the war, but to me, it was just another day in the hospital, healing." said Jennings.
Upon his release, he was given the prestigious Purple Heart for valor; however, it was not met with any ceremony or recognition, other than Mr. Jennings being told that he was one of only two members of his platoon that had survived deployment.
For this veteran who took pride in doing his part protecting our nation’s freedoms, it was just the right thing to do.
Mr. Jennings accepted the U.S. Army's thanks, and went back to create a life in his hometown of Brookneal, VA, where he then served as a carrier in the United States Postal Service for over twenty years.
Recognition of a Life of Service
Upon hearing of Mr. Jennings' accomplishments, and life of service, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors felt inspired to recognize the WWII veteran for his steadfast commitment to public service, and representation of our locality's values.
Campbell County Department of Public and Employee Relations, along with an internal team - the Campbell County Spirit Lifters - launched a campaign to encourage members of the community to send cards of gratitude, thanking Mr. Jennings for his sacrifices.
Sherry F. Harding, Director of Public and Employee Relations, and also one of the founders of the Spirit Lifters team, requested the Board of Supervisors to adopt a resolution, honoring the Purple Heart recipient, and acknowledging the award bestowed upon him seventy-seven years ago.
"Our Spirit Lifters group saw this as an opportunity to truly uplift and appreciate a member of our community who embodies all the values we hold so dear in our organization," said Harding.
On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, Chairman Matt Cline (Concord) entertained a motion to accept the resolution presented by Harding - and it passed, unanimously.
In the audience to accept on behalf of Mr. Jennings was his son, Donnie (Jennings).
A Surprise Visit
On Thursday, September 8, 2022, accompanied by WSET-13, Harding, and County Administrator, Frank Rogers, visited Mr. Jennings at his family farm in Brookneal to share with him a copy of the resolution, and the cards received.
As Harding read a copy of the resolution, Mr. Jennings listened intently to the acknowledgment and recognition he didn't receive in his youth.
When asked if he would do it all over again - his response...
Thank you for your service, Mr. Jennings. We are so proud and honored to have you in our community!
Members of the community that would like to send a card of gratitude to Mr. Jennings, please send them care of "Campbell County Spirit Lifters, PO Box 100, Rustburg, VA 24588.
(To view the WSET-13 interview, please visit: https://bit.ly/3qu7PRo )