TIFTON, Ga. (WRBL) — It was an All-American Fourth of July celebration in Tifton Friday as the South Georgia community honored one of its own.
Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. Ralph Puckett was celebrated in his hometown of Tifton.
Puckett has traveled the world and fought our nation’s battle. But at the end of the day, the 95-year-old war hero is a son of Tifton and South Georgia.
He was asked how it feels to be back home.
“Great. Wonderful,” he said, smiling.
He was asked if it was a special place.
“It really is.”
Friday was a special day in a special place for Col. Puckett.
He was home. And Tifton embraced the hometown hero with open arms – and gifts.
He got a key to the city he left almost 75 years ago en route to the U.S. Military Academy at West point and a date with history on a North Korean hillside pinned down by the Chinese Army in 1950.
“He was won more and been honored more from presidents to local officials,” said Tyron Spearman, Tifton’s Tourism coordinator. “And We in Tifton are just proud that he was born and raised in our little town. It is probably one of the greatest honors our little town can have.”
There will now be a street in Tifton named Victory Drive in honor of Col. Puckett.
Here’s what Puckett’s son, Thomas, told the more than 150 people at the United Methodist Church on why Tifton will always hold a special place in his heart. Thomas was speaking for his father.
“I was shaped by many experiences in my life, but it is my family, friends, and other adults in Tifton who helped me become the man I am today,” Thomas Puckett said.
A lion in winter, Puckett came into the church in his wheelchair. He was seated near the pulpit when the National Anthem started abruptly.
Puckett, with a little help from his Ranger buddy, retired Col. Rob Choppa, came out of his seat and stood ramrod straight throughout the Star Spangled banner.
Here is a link below to the whole ceremony:
“That is classic Ralph Puckett,” Thomas Puckett said. “He hears the first note and he jumps up to attention. A true Patriot. A true Patriot. He loves this country.”
And the embodiment of what we will celebrate this weekend, said Chip Grantham, the pastor of Tifton United Methodist Church.
“Col. Puckett, as a warrior has always been at the same time a member of the community, a member of the church, a member of all of those different things,” Grantham said. “And to me, he’s the embodiment of what this country is, people who have answered the call to serve in whatever capacity God calls on them. And gives whatever they can and do their best for everyone.”