GREEN: Jeptha “Jep” Crum was 22 years old, out of work and living in Kentucky when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. The year was 1940 — just before the country entered WWII.
“I was born and raised in the hills of Kentucky,” said Crum, now 94. “There was no work, so people enlisted.”
During a Memorial Day service at Green Veterans Memorial Park on Monday, Mayor Dick Norton hailed Crum as a “true American hero” for his service to the country and presented the veteran with a plaque as a thank you from “a grateful community.”
Crum fought for five years with the 5th Infantry, nicknamed the Red Diamond, where he served as a staff sergeant. During his time in Europe and throughout World War II, he was in charge of 50 soldiers and often served as acting lieutenant and platoon sergeant.
“I fought with [Gen. George] Patton from the hedgerows of France until the Battle of the Bulge,” he said.
He left the Army in 1945 following the war.
The ceremony followed one of the largest Memorial Day parades in Green’s 20-year history, said Mike Elkins, superintendent of the city’s parks and recreation department, which coordinated the event. More than 150 units participated in the parade.
Sgt. First Class Raymond B. Kunkler III, a New Franklin resident and a 1996 Ellet High graduate with the 1st Battalion of the 145th Armored Regiment of the National Guard, was the keynote speaker for the memorial ceremony.
Bob Beasley, commander of the American Legion Post 436, helped coordinate the event. He also participated in the building of the Veterans Memorial Park, funded through donations, he said. The park opened in 2010.
“This [park] has been a wonderful effort by the whole community and a great way to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Beasley said.
Danny Milan, a Green High graduate and Kent State University student, opened the ceremony by singing the Star Spangled Banner and asked the crowd of about 200 to help him close it with America the Beautiful.
Green High marching band members, senior Regina DeLucia, 17, and junior Zach Gabriel, 16, performed taps on their bugles. Both students are also members of the school’s concert band and jazz ensemble.
The U.S. Marine Corps provided the color guard.
Following the ceremony, with Helen, his wife of 64 years by his side, Jep Crum spoke about the men he fought alongside during the war.
“Red Diamond was our insignia for the Mountain Division. We had boys who couldn’t read or write. But hand them a gun and they could hit anything,” he said.
Crum said he headed north following the war, looking for work when he stopped in Green long enough to find and fall in love with his bride. Helen lived right next door to where they still reside today. The couple have three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Crum, who went to work at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, is a member of the Portage Lakes Masonic Temple.
“I’ve had too many close calls not to know that I can look up and thank the man upstairs. He’s the all-seeing and never-seen watching eye,” said Crum.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.