Joseph Curry Regan Sr. was a true American hero in every sense of the word. During WWII he served as an Army combat engineer. His numerous medals included the Bronze Star for his heroic action while under heavy enemy fire.
Because of his valor, France awarded him the Legion of Honor Medal, that nation’s highest award. He helped organize and facilitate construction of Thomasville’s first NC National Guard unit which was activated for the Korean War. Major Regan retired after completing 22 years of military service.
His business career included fifteen years as co-owner of Thomasville Store Company. He left the grocery business to pursue a career in banking beginning with First National Bank. Later he moved to State Commercial Bank which merged with NCNB (now BoA) and served on the board of directors. Curry retired from BoA in 1987 with the distinction of having been known as “the legend”. He was rated No. 1 loan officer each year of his employment for all of BoA.
Civic contributions include: Young Man of the Year, president and life member of the Thomasville Jaycees; three terms member and one term Mayor Pro-tem on the Thomasville City Council, the youngest member ever elected; Past Master of Thomasville Masonic Lodge # 214 A.F.& A.M.; member and officer of the Thomasville Order of the Eastern Star; Thomasville City School Board with one term as chairman; past chairman for Thomasville’s Recreation Commission; City of Thomasville Planning and Zoning Board; Davidson County Board of Health Chairman; board of directors for Piedmont Health Systems Agency; Lake Thom-A-Lex Committee; Thomasville’s Chairman for the March of Dimes; Civil Defense Director for Thomasville; Post Commander for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars; treasurer for Thomasville High School Bulldog Booster Club; treasurer of the United Way. He served on the board of directors for Davidson County Senior Services, Habitat for Humanity, and was the 2001 initial recipient of the “Founders Award” given by the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce for his many contributions to the Thomasville community. Aug. 15, 2014, he was presented the key to the City of Thomasville and a commemorative plaque honoring his community service.
Mr. Regan was a longtime member of the Thomasville Lions Club having served on the board of directors. For many years after his retirement, he and wife Audrey volunteered at Community General Hospital (TMC).
He was an accomplished athlete and won numerous gold medals in the Davidson County Senior Olympic Games. At the age of 91, he qualified for the NC Senior Olympic Games where he won gold medals for football throw, softball throw, horseshoes and a bronze medal for bowling. He was an avid sportsman. Even at age 90, he still possesses rifle shooting skills that enabled him to harvest the largest whitetail buck deer of his entire hunting career. Until his resignation at the age of 92, he was the oldest living member of the Thomasville Buck Club and the oldest member with in N.C. Wildlife Club.
On Nov. 19, 1939, he was married to Audrey Leonard, who preceded him in death January 10, 1998. They had four children: Joe, Eddie, Vickie and Jean.
Curry died at age 94 on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 at Hinkle Hospice Home in Lexington. He was born March 10, 1920 in Davidson County the sixth of eleven children to Remer and Arnie Sechrist Regan. He was a 1938 graduate of Davis Townsend High School. Curry was a member of the First Baptist Church in Thomasville where he has served as treasurer, trustee, deacon and Sunday school teacher.
By Mark Wineka, Salisbury Post
September 21, 2014
SALISBURY – Jack Jowers finally came home Friday.
That’s a strange thing to say, but it’s true.
His friends around Churchland and the crowd at Stamey’s Barbecue in Lexington know Jowers, a retired cable splicer for the telephone company, has been home and a part of their lives for decades. Over generations now extending into great-grandchildren, his family also took for granted they could depend on Jowers, now 91.
“There’s no one tougher than Pawpaw,” said one of this grandsons, Air Force Lt. Col. William Chris Robinson. “The toughest man I know.”
But until a couple of weeks ago, none of Jowers’ friends and no one in his family – not even his late wife, Pauline – knew what Jowers had been through a Japanese prison in World War II.
He kept it hidden from them this long.
They had never heard of his escape from those captors or how he had survived for more than a year and a half in the jungles of French New Guinea until U.S. airships finally arrived.
He never even told his grandson, the officer of whom he has always been so proud.
“It filled in a blank spot in our family history and narrative,” Robinson said Friday.
Richard Turner, Hefner VA Medical Center coordinator for prisoners of war, said Jowers has been a different man since he sat down one day and told nurse practitioner Jeannine Racey his story, then agreed to share it with his family.
In particular, he’s sleeping better, Turner said, because the nightmares are fading.
Jack Jowers finally came home Friday because there was, during the annual POW/MIA Recognition Day in the VA Chapel, acknowledging a period during the war he had chosen to keep bottled up inside for some 70 years.
A piece of him had never come back, until now.
A native of Georgia, Jowers relocated to North Carolina with his family in his pre-teen years. He enlisted in the Army at Fort Bragg in April 1941, when he was only 18.
The Army sent him to Fort Sill, Okla., for basic training and his eventual assignment to a mule-pack outfit. The mules were soon replaced by mechanized track artillery, and Jowers was still at Fort Sill when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
His outfit loaded up its equipment on flat cars and headed for California, where they shipped out of San Francisco for the war in the Pacific. Jowers trained and waited at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii for three months until heading off on an island-hopping campaign that took him, among other places, to the Marshall Islands, Guadalcanal and Papua New Guinea, where Jowers said matter-of-factly, “a lot of activity was going on.”
At one point in the fighting, his company saw soldiers with the French Foreign Legion rushing toward it and yelling something in French the Americans couldn’t quite translate. They knew the word “hell” was included, so the Americans shouted back, “You go to hell, too!”
Jowers said he learned much later in the war the Frenchmen were advising them to “Get the hell out of here.” The Americans should have taken their advice, because Jowers and the others were surrounded and taken captive.
The Japanese guards worked them about a month, refusing to share their rice. When they finally offered the Americans some rice, it was infested with maggots.
The guards explained they could eat rice with maggots or no rice at all.
“When you’re hungry,” Jowers said, “you do anything. Didn’t nobody refuse it.”
Most of the time, the American prisoners were cutting down trees with axes, making a clearing. There were no barracks to sleep in. They had no concept of time – watches and everything else of value had been taken from them, including their shoes.
Jowers guessed he was a prisoner for three or four months before a huge storm blew through one day. The force of the winds and rains were like a typhoon, and Jowers said he and others decided “if we’re going to make it, go now.”
They ran toward the jungle. Jowers said about 15 men were in his group.
“We ran all night long… without looking back,” he said. “It seemed like we never quit running.”
The men who escaped spent the next year living in the jungle, eating the things monkeys ate, such as bananas and berries, relying on birds to warn them of strangers coming.
Jowers didn’t confirm this, but Turner said at least three men in his group died. The men had run into the jungle with only the clothes on their backs.
By the day when they heard American planes overhead – “it was the best sound in the world,” Jowers said - and listened to people talking in a language they understood, Jowers described how he and everybody else were half-naked. Some were skeletal.
His voice cracked at the moment of the memory.
One thing Jowers will never forget, after his long stay in the jungle was over, he was being offered a Lucky Strike cigarette in a white pack. Lucky Strikes, he told Racey when she interviewed him, had always been in green packs.
Jowers recovered on a Navy ship and, believe it or not, was sent back into action until the end of the war. He took part in the liberation of the Philippines. Back in the States, after Jowers had gone missing, his parents received a telegram telling them he was presumed dead. They were among the few parents of the war who would receive much better news later.
The pews in the VA Chapel Friday were filled with Davidson County friends of Jowers, and he and his small family sat near the front.
Family members included his daughter, Jan Robinson from Cary and her husband Wendell; grandsons William and Jack Robinson; and great-grandson Jack Fletcher Robinson.
Lt. Col. Robinson traveled here from Warner-Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. What they had known until a couple of weeks ago was Jack Jowers had been missing for several days during the war, only to make it safely back to American lines.
What they know now are some of the details behind 16 to 18 months when he was a prisoner and then a jungle survivor.
Racey, the nurse practitioner at the VA, fell in love with Jowers during some of his visits to the VA. When he finally opened up and told her about the time in New Guinea, Racey couldn’t believe it.
She knew the information had to be shared with the family.
Racey stopped Hefner VA Medical Center Director Kaye Green in the hallway one day and “her heart was exploding,” Green said. Soon the VA staff was arranging for Jowers to be the special guest at the POW/MIA Recognition Day, and Jowers surprisingly agreed.
That’s how far he’s come.
The VA didn’t hand out a medal to Jowers Friday, but it presented him with a certificate – “simply a token of our great gratitude, appreciation and honor we have for you,” Green told him.
Green has participated in a lot of these POW/MIA Days – one of the most sacred events held every year at VA facilities – but Friday was probably the most memorable, she said.
William Robinson said his grandfather is the kind of man who seems to know something about everything. Before anyone in the family knew his complete war story, they never doubted he was special.
“He’s always been that guy,” Robinson said.
The toughest man they know.
TAKING BACK LIFE - A wounded warrior's quest for the "New Normal"
By Caron Myers
Each October 17th Jessie Fletcher celebrates life. His life. After all, it was only four years ago, on October 17, 2011, during his second deployment to Afghanistan that the young Corporal stepped over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) losing both his legs, several fingers and a career in one flash.
"I remember everything about that moment," said Fletcher, who usually doesn't like to share the details. "I remember stepping over the IED and the resulting blast."
And he remembers the immediate challenges that it created. He remembers yelling to his friend, "Carter - I blew my legs off." His friend, who was also a medic, ran to his aid, radioed for help and carried him out of the crater created by the explosion.
Life changed radically for Jessie on October 17th. Now, he lives with the challenges.
"What the IED did was take away part of my body. It took away my identity. I could not be active in the Marines serving my country any longer. I had to adjust to a new normal," mused the 28-year-old Watertown, NY native.
One of the greatest challenges he had was learning to walk again, which he has mastered with the help of prosthetic legs, a dedicated medical staff at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Md. and a girl named Emily.
ALWAYS A MARINE
As a member of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, Cpl. Fletcher, USMC (Ret.) was a Marine scout sniper whose long-range precision marksmanship and close reconnaissance skills arguably saved many-a-life of his American compatriots.
"I absolutely believe scout snipers save lives through IED interdiction and reconnaissance," he recounted. Scout snipers assist other troops in the melee of war by getting out ahead of the conflict. If they do their jobs, then there are fewer casualties when the rest come into the area.
But, being a Marine was something Jessie knew he wanted to do since high school when one of his mentors guided him in that direction. Like many young high school-aged boys, Jessie was "getting into mischief" and needed a little more structure in his life. Life had dealt Jessie a few blows already. His twin brother had died and he was being raised by his grandparents.
So, in June of 2008, only four days after graduating from high school, Jessie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In short order he was at Paris Island with 2nd Battalion Charlie Company. After graduating from boot camp, he became an infantryman at Camp Giger and was sent to 3rd Platoon Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 6th Marines, 2nd Marine division Camp Lejeune.
And it was at Camp Lejeune that Jessie was promoted to Lance Corporal and selected to join the Scout Sniper Platoon. He had found his passion. It was something he was good at and it motivated him to excel even more. He made it into the Scout Sniper (SS)community as a professionally instructed gunman or PIG which qualified him as a combat life saver and marksmanship instructor.
Life was good. One accomplishment led to another. He went on to complete other advanced military schools, and in December 2009, he was deployed to Afghanistan.
Jessie’s first deployment in Afghanistan happend to be the largest joint operation of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The mission set out to remove the Taliban from one of the largest cities in Helmond Valley. It involved Americans, Canadians, and British troops working alongside Afghan Police and the Afghan Army. The mission also took him to to Marjah, a city which his unit cleared. It was one of the U.N.'s high-priority missions.
During the eight-month deployment Jessie served as a SAW gunner and observer for call sign Lacota 4. And daily he and his other troop members on the ground were subjected to harsh resistance from the Taliban.
In November of 2010, Jessie and his buddies attended the Marine Corps Ball, a celebration of the Marine Corps birthday. Hundreds were in attendance and most were with wives and girlfriends. However, there were a few single invited guests. One such attendee was Emily Ball of Winston-Salem. Her uncle, Pete Knight, is head of the Purple Heart association in North Carolina.
"I asked her to dance. At first she didn't want to, but I convinced her and told her if she would dance with me, she'd never dance with anyone else again," laughed always outgoing and gregarious Jessie. They danced together for the rest of that night and a courtship ensued.
It was during this same timeframe that Jessie spent time coaching three ranges, receiving the honor of "High Coach" for teaching the most Marines to shoot Expert.
He went on to attend sniper school at Quantico, VA, where at graduation he became a "hunter of gunmen" (HOG). CAX followed and Jessie was promoted to the rank of Coporal.
THE SECOND DEPLOYMENT
It was the summer of 2011 and outside temperatures in Afghanistan reached 120 degrees farenheight. Jessie was deployed again to Helmand Province. This time the mission was to secure Sangin and Kajaki Districts from Taliban insurgents.
Things were going fine for the young Marine. That is, until October 17th.
By then Corporal Fletcher was with the Scout Sniper Team on a mission to provide security for advancing units around the district. As he was out on overwatch detail, he stepped over a non-metallic pressure plate, otherwise known as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
The resulting blast amputated both legs above the knee and several of his fingers. After triage in Germany, Jessie was medically evacuated to the United States.
When he arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center the first person he saw, other than trauma doctors and nurses, was Emily. She stayed by his side throughout his recovery.
Over the next 14 months, Jessie underwent countless surgeries, dozens of blood transfusions, and suffered complications enhanced by the blast injuries.
"The work I accomplished at Walter Reed was only possible from the support everyone was able to share. Without their commitment, I do not know if I could have been so successful," he said.
Emily helped Jessie relocate to her home state of North Carolina and became not only his caregiver, but his fiance.
Three years to the day Jessie asked Emily to dance at the Marine Corps Ball, the two married at Childress Vineyards in Lexington. Richard Childress, who had visited Jessie at Walter Reed, as he had so many other wounded warriors, helped the couple by providing them a place to marry. Otherwise, they had planned to go to the Justice of the Peace.
As fate would have it, Jessie's good friend Carter -the corpsman/medic that was Jessie’s first responder the day of his injury - married them. There was not a dry eye in the room when Jessie, in his Marine Corps dress blues and two leg prosthetics, walked down the aisle with his bride.
Since then, Jessie has transitioned into life as a college student, attending Salem College in Winston-Salem. In two more years he expects to earn a batchelor's degree in business, with a specialty in entrepreneurship.
In his free time Jessie travels back to Walter Reed frequently to visit with other Marines who are still in treatment and recovery. Jessie has also connected with several local businesses to work with disabled veterans who are seeking employment.
And, through the love and dedication of the people in his new-found community in North Davidson County - and with the help of Brad Leonard Builders in Welcome - Jessie and Emily are currently in the proccess of building a wheelchair accessible home which will further his independence. They plan to be moved in around the first part of 2016.
"I had to learn to walk again and that caused a lot of stress that was overbearing," said Jessie, recalling the first days of his recovery. "But, I have learned that the challenges were building blocks to my everyday life and to the person I am today.