Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Tifton, Georgia
GrapeNew
Official White House photo
Col. Ralph Puckett Jr., a Tifton native, is awarded the Medal of Honor – the nation's highest military honor – on Friday by President Joe Biden at the White House.
'A TRUE AMERICAN HERO'
TIFTON NATIVE COL. PUCKETT RECEIVES MEDAL OF HONOR
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
More than 70 years after his heroics in a bloody battle during the Korean War, retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett Jr., 94, a Tifton native and U.S. Army Ranger, received the Medal of Honor from President Biden on Friday at a White House ceremony.

The medal's citation recognized Puckett for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" while leading his severely outnumbered men in battle during November 1950.

Puckett, who resides in Columbus, is "a true American hero," Biden said, whose Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, is "long overdue."

On Nov. 25, 1950, during one of the toughest battles of the Korean War, the Eighth Army Ranger Company seized and held a strategically important hill overlooking the Chongchon River. Separated by more than a mile from the nearest friendly unit, only 51 soldiers fought off several hundred Chinese attackers. 

"To make their charge, they had to cross about half mile of frozen rice paddies under fire," Biden said at the ceremony. "And when enemy machine gunners slowed the Rangers’ advance, Puckett risked his life by running across the area to draw fire that would reveal the location of the nest. He did it once. He did it again. It took three runs intentionally exposing himself to the enemy to pick off the gunner."

Biden said that when Puckett's Rangers finally reached the top of Hill 205, they found it abandoned but knew the fight wasn’t over. Soon, there were "mortars followed by a ground assault from the entire Chinese battalion. Puckett’s Rangers were outnumbered almost 10 to one," the president said.

"During the fight, Puckett abandoned the relative safety of his foxhole, moving from man to man, encouraging them in the fight, checking that the perimeter was holding. He took a grenade fragment in his left thigh, but Puckett refused to be evacuated. He was a Ranger. ... And over the course of the next several hours, four more waves of assaults came.

"Each time, Puckett made his rounds, passing out extra ammo and extra encouragement to rally his men. Each time, he was able to call in artillery support — sometimes 'danger close' — to help break the advance of the Chinese soldiers. Each time, the Rangers held the hill, pushing the enemy back — at times, with hand-to-hand fighting. About 2:30 a.m., after more than four hours of near nonstop fighting, the sixth wave began," Biden said.

"By this time, ... many Rangers had been killed, and those who are left were exhausted, outnumbered, and dangerously short of ammunition and grenades. Lieutenant Puckett had sustained a second wound, this time in his left shoulder. He had distributed all the ammo to his men, keeping only eight bullets and a bayonet for himself. 

"For the last time, Puckett called in artillery support, only to be told that the guns were supporting other besieged units.Then, two mortar rounds landed directly in Puckett’s foxhole, tearing through both his feet and his backside and his left arm and shoulder," the president related.

"Puckett’s Rangers had been overwhelmed, and he himself was badly wounded. He ordered one of his men who found him on the ground to leave him behind. But that’s not the Ranger creed."
Puckett would eventually recover and go on to serve in Vietnam before retiring as a colonel in 1971 as one of the most decorated combat veterans in the nation’s history.

During his career, Puckett received the Distinguished Service Cross twice, two Silver Stars for valor, two Bronze Star Medals and five Purple Hearts.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea was present for Friday's Medal of Honor ceremony and said, "Colonel Puckett is a true hero of the Korean War. With extraordinary valor and leadership, he completed missions until the very end, defending Hill 205 and fighting many more battles requiring equal valiance. 

"Without the sacrifice of veterans, including Colonel Puckett and the Eighth Army Ranger Company, freedom and democracy we enjoy today couldn’t have blossomed in Korea," the South Korean president said.

Puckett, a 1949 West Point graduate, joined the newly established U.S. Army Ranger Department, serving as an instructor and tactical officer, and commanding companies at Fort Benning and in the Ranger Mountain Camp. He went on to lead companies in Vietnam, train cadets at West Point and organize military leadership courses in Colombia.

The Col. Ralph Puckett Leadership Award series was named for him, honoring top officers in the U.S. Army Rangers, which is the most elite and highly trained of the Army's combat forces. 
GA JOBLESS RATE DROPS TO 4.3% IN APRIL, DOL SAYS
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Georgia’s unemployment rate continued to drop in April, down 0.2 percentage points to 4.3%, the Ga. Department of Labor (DOL) reports.

During April, the state's total labor force was up 11,336 for a total of 5,172,407, and has risen by 186,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Georgia’s employed residents in April increased by 22,222, totaling 4,951,267. The number has increased by 586,000 since last April, the DOL said.

The DOL has paid almost $21.5 billion in state and federal benefits in the past 60 weeks. Last week, the department issued $191.5 million in benefits, which included regular unemployment and federally funded assistance.

Accommodations and food services had the most weekly unemployment claims processed at 5,741. In retail trade, 1,176 claims were processed.

Last week's new unemployment claims increased by 474.36% compared to the same week in 2019 – the fifth biggest increase in the nation, according to WalletHub, a financial data website.

However, the website reported that Georgia's weekly unemployment claims decreased by 86.15% compared to the same week last year, which was the ninth biggest decline in the U.S.
Refreshing careers for Tifton area CDL drivers and more. 
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TIFT COUNTY REPORTS 14 NEW COVID-19 CASES
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County has recorded 14 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the past two weeks, seven of them in the past week, said the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH) on Tuesday.

There was one additional coronavirus-related death in Tift County during the past week, the DPH reported.

Within the past two weeks, Tift's new cases represent 34 per 100,000 population, the DPH reported. Also during that period, Tift had a testing positivity rate of 2.7%.

Since the pandemic began, Tift County has had 3,457 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 98 related deaths, the DPH said.

Georgia reported 468 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday with 32 additional deaths and 112 new hospitalizations. The state has reported a total of 894,057 confirmed cases and 17,962 related COVID-19 deaths in the past 14 months.
WEAR PURPLE ON FRIDAY TO SUPPORT 'CRUSHING LUPUS IN COMMUNITY'
Tift County lupus survivors are asking everyone to wear purple on Friday, May 28, to support the theme: "Let’s Fight Together and Crush Lupus In Our Community."

Lupus survivors ask that folks take a photo of themselves wearing something purple and then post it on social media with the hashtags #TiftCountyGoesPurple and #PopGa2021.

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, such as skin, joints and organs. The signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.

With lupus, something goes wrong with one's immune system, and symptoms can flare up at different times.
Brenda Morales Núñez of Tifton, SRTCs Adult Education Student of the Year, is now enrolled as a full-time college student at Southern Regional Technical College.
SRTC FOUNDATION AWARDS $45,900 IN SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SUMMER SEMESTER
For the summer semester, which began May 13, the Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) Foundation awarded scholarships to 54 students totaling $45,900.

The funds assist students with education-related costs such as tuition, fees, books, classroom and lab supplies.
 
Among area students awarded scholarships are: Tabitha Section of Ashburn; Emily Boyd and Jessica Clarke of Nashville; Beth Weldon of Pavo; Tia Pendley of Sumner; Virginia Lamb of Sylvester; Amelia Hillmon, Sterling LeBlanc, Carter McKee, Brenda Morales Nunez, Reagan Pate, Hannah Walker, Samantha Walker, and Amber Cummings of Tifton; and Patricia Drawdy and Autumn Kirkland of Ty Ty.

The SRTC Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to promote higher education and expand educational opportunities to students.

The application period for fall scholarships opened Monday, May 24, and applications may be submitted until July 15.
TIFTON-TIFT COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RIBBON CUTTING
Career Technical & Agricultural Education (CTAE) Facility
Tift County High School
May 20
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Include your name, phone number and address for verification purposes. Email letters to: IHeardIt@tiftongrapevine.com
TIFTON GRAPEVINE'S CATS OF THE WEEK
These cuddly kittens need homes and are available for adoption at the Tift County Animal Shelter. To adopt your next pet, visit the Animal Shelter from 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch's Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055
DEDICATING TIFTON'S NEW POST OFFICE
– MAY 24, 1964
Tifton's new post office was dedicated on May 24, 1964, with an audience estimated at 500 sitting under "a blazing sun." Congressman J.L. Pilcher spoke on "Getting along together in the world." Ralph Edwards, representing the Tifton Chamber of Commerce, was master of ceremonies, and Postmaster Jack Carter welcomed guests.
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Frank Sayles Jr.
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