Saturday, August 1, 2009

Oregon bids farewell to one of their first African-American guard members

Left: Earl Winchester married Virginia Augmon in 1941. In 1978 they attended the Links Starlight Cotillion at which their daughter was a debutante.

Back in February, the Oregon National Guard honored one of their first African-American members, Master Sgt. (Ret.) Earl Henry Winchester, who joined the Oregon Army National Guard in 1955.

Winchester was invited to the Oregon National Guard's headquarters in Salem, Ore., as part of the organization's observation of African-American Heritage Month.

I had a chance to meet Mr. Winchester, and conduct an interview for the story and blog post I wrote. He was as humble as they come, and at 87 years of age, still beamed with pride for his 32 years of sacrifice and service to his state and to his nation.

You can read all about his visit to the Oregon National Guard's headquarters, here.

Last weekend, a number of Oregonians, including former and current members of the Oregon National Guard, paid tribute to Winchester once again. But this time the tribute came as a final farewell.

According to long-time coworker and friend of Winchester, Col. (Ret.) Warren W. Aney, Winchester's memorial service was "very moving and appropriate," with singing by the choir from Winchester's church, and attendance by his son, Peter.

Aney gave a brief statement at the ceremony, honoring Winchester's National Guard service. He said an African-American enlisted woman from Joint Force Headquarters told the gathering what Winchester's service meant to her.

During that interview I did with Mr. Winchester, he said something which may continue to resonate long after the flowers wilt in front of his headstone;

"If you believe in yourself, then you can be somebody that others believe in."

Mr. Winchester, thank you for setting an example we can follow. We will always believe in you.

You can read all about Master Sgt. (Ret.) Earl H. Winchester's life in a story by The Oregonian's Joan Harvey, which includes a photo album of Winchester's life and service to community and nation. Follow this link here.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

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