The Transylvania Times -

Local Honor Guard Pays Tribute To WWII Purple Heart Recipient – Transylvania County, NC


January 30, 2020

Honor guard chaplain Craig Adams holds the ashes of Vern Lovin during the three-round volley as family members watch. (Photos courtesy of Michel Robertson)

In February 1945, twenty-year-old Marine private Clint "Vern" Lovin was part of the amphibious invasion of the island of Iwo Jima.

"Uncle Vernon said when the first few waves of troops went ashore, he could tell they were having a hard time," said Bob Lovin at his uncle's memorial service on Saturday, Jan. 20. A resident of Buncombe County, Vern Lovin, age 95, died on Jan. 14, 2020.

"When it was Uncle Vern's turn, he made it to shore and found his way to an artillery crater," Bob Lovin continued. "The troops were so dug in that they couldn't see who was shooting at them. When Vern raised his head to see where to shoot, a bullet passed through his helmet, came out the other side and went straight down into his wrist. They took him back to the ship where they operated on him."

When he returned to his unit, the battle was raging farther inland. At one point, a phosphorus grenade exploded, and a blazing piece of debris landed on Lovin's leg.

"Uncle Vernon told me, 'It was really burning. I was like Clint Eastwood. I got my bayonet, dug down into the wound, and flung that hot piece out.'"

Lovin also fought in the Battle of Okinawa and served as part of the occupying force in Japan.

Returning home, Lovin started a family, made a life for himself and spoke little of his war experiences. The accounts related to the congregation by Bob Lovin were the first many family members had heard about what happened on Iwo Jima.

Military Honors For A WWII Veteran

President John Kennedy said, "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers." On a cold, rainy January afternoon, the men and women of the Transylvania County Honor Guard paid tribute to Pfc. Vern Lovin at the Mills Gap Baptist Church in Asheville.

Because Buncombe County does not have its own honor guard, Lovin's eldest daughter, Peggy Randolph, contacted Howard "Sarge" Thiele, commander of the Transylvania County Honor Guard. Would they travel to Asheville to perform a ceremony for her father, she wondered?

"We would never refuse the family of a WWII veteran and Purple Heart recipient," said Thiele. "Everyone in our guard who was available that day wanted to participate."

Never deterred by inclement weather, the honor guard travelled from Brevard to the Mills Gap Baptist Church in Asheville on a cold and drizzly January afternoon.

The military tribute to Vern Lovin commenced with the honor guard processional led by USMC veteran Ron Severs. Honor guard chaplain, Craig Adams, U.S. Army, explained to the congregation the meaning of military funeral honors, followed by a prayer. Honor guard commander Thiele then called the guard to attention and rendered a final salute to U.S. Marine Corps veteran Vern Lovin.

An uncommon and particularly poignant moment in the ceremony occurred when congregants were invited by Lovin's family to proceed outdoors to witness the 3-round volley performed by honor guard member Mike Geremia, U.S. Army. The entire congregation stood somberly in the rain, many of the veterans holding a salute. Taps were played by a Marine reservist.

Inside, two Marine reservists opened and displayed the American flag, then folded it into the tri-corner hat shape. A young Marine gunnery sergeant presented the flag to Lovin's eldest daughter, Peggy Randolph, and her sisters Linda Friedman and Patricia Goetsch, who were visibly moved by the ceremony. Adams offered the sisters three fired cartridge cases representing duty, honor and country. The honor guard and reservists recessed, and the service continued, officiated by Rev. Jeff Wilkie.

Thus, 95-year-old WWII veteran and Purple Heart recipient Clint Vernon Lovin was memorialized by fellow veterans on Jan. 18, 2020.

"The military honor given to our father by the Transylvania County Honor Guard was touching, heartfelt and way beyond our expectations," said Peggy Randolph. "The family wishes to thank the honor guard for their service."

Adams responded, "You can ask any member of this honor guard, and he or she will tell you that it is a sacred obligation that we are discharging by doing this. It means as much to the honor guard members as it does to the family."


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