Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Tifton, Georgia
GrapeNew
U.S. Army photo
Retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett stands with troops as they prepare to start a foot march during the 2021 David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning on April 16.
TIFTON'S NEW MEDAL
OF HONOR RECIPIENT
RET. COL RALPH PUCKETT TO BE AWARDED
FOR VALOR DURING BATTLE IN KOREAN WAR
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett, 94, a Tifton native and U.S. Army Ranger living legend, will be awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, for his valor in leading his severely outnumbered men in a bloody battle during the Korean War.

Puckett, who lives in Columbus, received a phone call Friday from President Biden informing him of the honor.

“I was surprised that I was selected to be awarded the medal, but I certainly felt that my Rangers deserved recognition and that kind of award for what they have done,” Puckett told WRBL in Columbus.

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.

Their commander, Lt. Ralph Puckett, continued to lead even though he was severely wounded three times. Because of his injuries, he told his men to leave him behind but they refused. For his actions, Puckett received the country's second-highest award for courage on the battlefield – the Distinguished Service Cross – and resumed active duty later that year as a living legend.

After Korea, 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. 

Besides the Distinguished Service Cross, Puckett has also received Silver and Bronze stars, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and the Special Operations Command Medal, among others.

In 2004, Puckett was named to Tifton's Wall of Fame. He has been named honorary colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment headquartered at Fort Benning and remains active with the Rangers and other soldiers at Fort Benning.

In 2017, he published his second book, "Ranger," a memoir of his days growing up in Tifton, his service in Korea and Vietnam, and his life beyond.
TOO MANY DRIVERS SPEED IN SCHOOL ZONES, STUDY FINDS
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Speeding in Tifton's school zones is a big problem – during a recent week between 7:30-8:30 a.m., 68% of vehicles were speeding through Eighth Street Middle's school zone, Tifton City Council was told Monday night.

Police Chief Steve Hyman gave council the results of a speed study conducted during the week of March 8 at several school zones in the city. Blue Line Solutions, a company that specializes in technology that tracks speeders, conducted the five-day study.

Hyman said the results were alarming. For example, during the week at the school zone on Eighth Street, a total of 32,916 vehicles went through the zone during its designated times, and 5,031 of the vehicles were found traveling above the speed limit. Of that number, 2,967 vehicles traveled 11 to 14 miles above the limit; 1,849 went 15 to 20 miles above the speed limit; and 215 vehicles traveled more than 21 mph over the limit.

The posted speed limit in school zones is 25 mph.

Northside Elementary's school zone on 20th Street was also problematic: Of a total 29,834 vehicles, 4,084 of them broke the law, traveling too fast when the school zone was activated. A total 2,526 vehicles were moving 11 to 14 mph over the limit; 1,413 cars were 15 to 20 mph over the limit; and 142 traveled more than 21 mph over.

Speed studies were also conducted at Charles Spencer, Matt Wilson and Len Lastinger elementary schools.

Blue Line's technology is capable of recording speeders on video and generating traffic tickets to be mailed to offenders along with a video link of their vehicle at the speed it was traveling.

City Manager Pete Pyrzenski stressed that the presentation was merely for information. "We are not implementing this," he said.

"We do have a lot of complaints" about speeders in school zones, Pyrzenski said. "These ratios and statistics speak for themselves."

The city manager said the goal of the program, if implemented, would not be to produce revenue from ticketing or to spy on people but would be for school safety.

Pyrzenski, Police Chief Hyman and City Attorney Rob Wilmot will review the issue and make a recommendation to City Council at a later date.
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MANY REMAINING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS END
By FRANK SAYLES JR.
Tifton Grapevine
Many of Georgia’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions have now been lifted, including some on restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and sports events.

Gov. Brian P. Kemp signed a 28-page executive order Friday, clearing the way for many businesses to operate more normally and making it easier for large groups and live performances to go forward.

Social distancing in restaurants and masks on restaurant workers are no longer required, and large venues may begin to operate at full capacity.

Kemp is still urging Georgians to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 6.3 million Georgians have been fully vaccinated, or 26%. In Tift County, 18,426 have been fully vaccinated, or 21%, according to the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH).

In the past two weeks, Tift reported 21 new confirmed cases of the virus, which is 51 per 100,000 population, the DPH reported.

During the past two-week period, Tift had a testing positivity rate of 6.1%.

In the past year, Tift County has had 3,430 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 96 related deaths, the DPH said.

Georgia reported 751 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday with 13 additional deaths and 94 new hospitalizations. The state has reported a total of 882,764 confirmed cases and 17,604 related COVID-19 deaths in the past year.
Rashod Bateman releases a new photo of himself wearing a No. 12 Baltimore Ravens jersey. In the photo at right shortly before the NFL draft, Bateman gets his mind off the speculation by working out at Brodie Field where he played as a Blue Devil.
RASHOD BATEMAN GOES TO RAVENS, SPORTS NO. 12 JERSEY
Staff Reports
Tifton's Rashod Bateman, the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick in the NFL draft, has apparently chosen No. 12 as his jersey number, according to his post on social media.

Bateman, the former Tift County Blue Devil and University of Minnesota star receiver, was the 27th overall pick in the draft Thursday night. He awaited the word with family and friends in Tifton, and wore a necklace containing a photo of his late uncle Anthony Bateman, a Tift County coach who died unexpectedly in 2019.

As he awaited the draft results, Rashod Bateman posted a photo of himself on Brodie Field, saying, "Got my last workout in yesterday on the field that made me ME."
TURNER COUNTY TITANS
BECOME SCHOOLS' NEW MASCOT
Staff Reports
It's a new day in Turner County: The Titans have arrived!

Following months of student-led deliberations, the new mascot for Turner County schools was unveiled Friday.

The “Titans" replace the “Rebels."

"There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this process of changing our school mascot," said Turner School Superintendent Craig Matthews.

"If you want your voice to be heard, present it in a respectful manner, present it with good sound reason, present it with passion, present it with diligence, have trust, and most of all, have patience; your voice will be heard. Students, your voice has been heard."

The process began when four Turner County High students made a presentation to the Turner Board of Education requesting a name change for the mascot. The idea was subsequently endorsed by the high school student body with more than 70% voting for retiring the former name.

With approval by school officials, students then led the search for a new mascot.

"Students, your choice for the mascot is an excellent symbol for our school, but don’t let it stop there. Rally behind our mascot with your individual effort. Rally behind our mascot in teamwork. Rally behind our mascot with pride. Let it motivate you. Let it inspire you to do your best," said Superintendent Matthews, who is a former principal, teacher and coach in Tift County.
TIFT COUNTY COMMISSIONER HUGHES NAMED 1st VP OF GA COUNTIES GROUP
Tift County Commissioner Melissa Hughes was recently sworn in to serve as first vice president on the 2021-2022 Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) Board of Managers. 

As first vice president and member of the executive committee, Hughes will work alongside other board members to lead the association and guide policies during the next year. She will also serve as chair of the ACCG Policy Council.

“It is indeed an honor and pleasure to serve as ACCG first vice president," Hughes said. "Too often, I have asked my constituents 'Are you a piece of the puzzle?' If one piece of the puzzle is missing, the puzzle is not complete.

"As a servant leader, I want to ensure the puzzle is complete, not only for Tift County, but for Georgia as well. In order for the puzzle to be complete, it will take all of us working to make Georgia the best that it can and will be,” Hughes said.
 
The ACCG Board of Managers works on initiatives focusing on increasing county efficiencies, enhancing continuing education and fostering strong relationships among counties, the state and federal governments.

The Tiftarea is also represented in the state organization by Hope Harmon of Ben Hill County, who serves as an ACCG district representative.
NEW GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR
HARD-HIT INDUSTRY
BUT STAFF SHORTAGES REMAIN AN ISSUE
Restaurants may begin applying this week to the U.S. Small Business Administration for grants through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, new funding in the American Rescue Plan Act that Congress approved recently.

“There’s a lot of individually owned and operated restaurants around the state, and I know many could not get the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) or maybe some of the other financing that was available,” Karen Bremer, president and CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, told WSB Radio.

The state's restaurant industry was down $5 billion in revenue during the past year because of the pandemic, Bremer said. Between 3,500 and 4,000 restaurants in Georgia permanently closed in the past 12 months, including some in the Tiftarea.

But while restaurants are starting to get busy again, they are experiencing widespread staff shortages, primarily because of a “dramatic migration” of women who have left the industry, the Restaurant Association president told WSB.

Bremer said that 52% of restaurant workers are women and 71% of servers are women, many of whom have left the workforce because of child-care issues.
UPWARD BOUND AT ABAC OPEN
FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Registration is now open for the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Upward Bound summer residential and summer bridge components.

Tiftarea Association Director Sonya Alexander said current Upward Bound students can participate based on their grade level once they conclude their high school academic year. The summer residential component runs May 25-July 2, and the bridge component runs June 1-July 26.

“The ABAC Upward Bound summer program is the highlight of the year,” Alexander said. “The summer program is designed to help prepare the students for the new academic school year while providing a college-like experience.

“It is a chance for our students to immerse themselves in the ABAC environment. Nothing can prepare a student better for going to college than to go to college.”

Alexander said the students will live on campus and eat in the dining hall for six weeks to get a full college experience. There is no cost to attend the program.

Upward Bound has been part of ABAC and surrounding communities for more than 40 years. The program serves high school students from low-income families and from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.

Target high schools include Atkinson, Berrien, Colquitt, Cook, Fitzgerald, Irwin, Tift, Turner, and Worth County. Information is available here.
TIFTON GRAPEVINE'S CAT OF THE WEEK
"Pepper" is 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
EXPERIMENT STATION AWARDED TO TIFTON
– MAY 9, 1919
After inspecting all sites offered, state trustees awarded the new agricultural Experiment Station to Tifton on May 9, 1919. Tifton received the news at about 9 p.m., "and the good news was announced to the people by a long blast of the fire whistle."
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Frank Sayles Jr.
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