CHURCH HILL — On the Sunday before the Fourth of July, Church Hill First Baptist Church hosted a patriotic service, but this year’s program was extra special as the congregation honored two of its biggest heroes.
World War II veterans Dave Rikard and Hiram “H” Bowlin received special recognition Sunday as two of the church’s three surviving members who served during World War II.
A third congregation member who served during WWII, Charlie McLain, wasn’t able to attend.
Church Hill FBC’s annual Patriotic Service
Pastor Gary Gerhardt told the Times News on Monday that every year CHFBC has a “God and Country” patriotic service on the Sunday prior to the Fourth of July.
“We focus on God’s blessings on this nation through the years and the founding of our nation,” Gerhardt said. “We always honor all the members who have served our country by playing the official song for their branch of service and having them come forward and be recognized.”
After they honored all the veterans Sunday, Rikard and Bowlin came forward, and Gerhardt read some of the information about their service and informed the congregation as to where they had served and when they had served.
“Then we basically gave a salute to them for their service and thanked them as a group,” Gerhardt said. “At the end of the service, each member was given an opportunity to greet and speak to each as the congregation filed out.”
He added, “Mr. Bowlin was in the European theater of war, and Mr. Rikard was in the Pacific theater. Dave literally saw the bombs that were dropped on Japan. Mr. Bowlin served under General Patton. We are honored to have them as part of our church family.”
Rikard, 94, enlisted in the Army after completing high school, before he was old enough to enlist.
The Army didn’t learn about his age until after he was serving with the 11th Air Force in the Pacific.
Rikard took his basic training at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, Maryland, and was serving with the 404th Bomb Group on Tinian Island when the USS Indianapolis delivered parts of Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
Hiram “H” Bowlin
Bowlin, 98, was married with two children and employed at Eastman when he was drafted into the Army. He took his basic training at Camp Blanding, near Jacksonville, Florida, and was trained as a rifleman.
He was sent to Europe and assigned to the 94th Infantry, a part of the 3rd Army commanded by Gen. George Patton.
The 94th saw 209 days of combat and participated in campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.
“I was assigned to communications and I didn’t know anything about communications,” Bowlin recounted to a fellow parishioner. “I was on the ground stringing wire to CP’s (command posts). We lost over half of the division, and I remember going into Sinz. They gave me a Jeep, I don’t know why, but I drove it everywhere. I had a trailer on it and was constantly busy.”
Charlie McLain, 92, served in both the European and Pacific theaters as a combat engineer in the Army Infantry 1944-46, and then served again during the Korean War.
McLain wasn’t able to attend Sunday’s service to be honored in person, but Gerhardt said he is remembered and honored by his fellow parishioners.