Calhoun, Jackson, Pless to be in first class of military HOF
by W. Winston Skinner
Three Coweta heroes from the Vietnam War will be in the inaugural class of the Georgia Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame banquet will be tonight in Columbus. Johnny Calhoun, Joe M. Jackson and Stephen Pless — all from Coweta — will be inducted. The three are among 16 from across the state to be inducted.
The Hall of Fame was started by soldier Paul Longgreer from Pine Mountain, according to Stephen Quesinberry, a history teacher at Newnan High School who teaches a class on the Vietnam War. Quesinberry nominated Calhoun for the Hall of Fame.
Calhoun was a Green Beret who is still listed as missing in action. The Newnan native was reported missing during an incident on March 27, 1968.
Pless and Jackson received the Medal of Honor from Pres. Lyndon Johnson in the same White House ceremony on Jan. 16, 1969. Pless received the medal for a rescue of four stranded soldiers near Quang Nai on Aug. 19, 1967.
Jackson’s medal was for his actions at the Battle of Kham Duc on May 12, 1968. While piloting a C-123 aircraft, Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of three Americans.
Pless was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1969. Jackson lives in Kent, Wash. and visits Newnan periodically — most recently for the Veterans Day program earlier this month.
Highways in Coweta County are named for both Jackson and Pless, and there are monuments honoring them at the Coweta County Courthouse. A sculpture depicting the Medal of Honor recipients with two children is at Veterans Memorial Plaza in the Newnan city park at Jackson Street and Temple Avenue.
John P. Yates of Griffin, a World War II veteran who serves as a state representative, will also be among the inductees. In the past, his district included precincts in eastern Coweta County.
Others to inducted include Tommy Clack, Decatur; William A. Connelly, Monticello; Raymond G. Davis, Fitzgerald; Rodney M. Davis, Macon; Henry T. Elrod, Ashburn; David L. Grange; Allan B. Imes, Griffin; Wendall L. Jones, Tifton; George W. Leland, Savannah; Vincent Melillo, Columbus; Ralph Puckett Jr., Tifton; Benjamin H. Purcell, Clarkesville; Pete Wheeler, Atlanta; Hilliard A. Wilbanks, Cornelia.
The Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame is a non-profit corporation with the goal of inducting up to 15 Georgia military veterans annually at a November awards banquet. Each inductee — or representative — will be presented with an engraved medallion and other honors. A selection committee chose this year’s inductees.