Rising Sun’s Ralph Perry, an Army veteran of the Korean War era, loves his country – and he doesn’t care who knows it.
And he thinks you should love it, too.
“I love this country, and I’m proud that I served in the military,” he said. “I really didn’t want to go, it was heartbreaking; but after I got in there and used to it, I loved it – and I’d do it all over again.”
Perry will be honored this Monday, May 29th, when he serves as the Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day parade in Rising Sun.
Perry was born on Little Doe Run, on the Switzerland-Jefferson County line; and after attending school, he enlisted into the U.S. Army in January of 1950.
“We were fighting in Korea then, at the 38th Parallel,” Perry said.
He did his boot camp at Camp Pickett, Virginia; and was part of a construction engineer group that was responsible for building roads, bridges, barns, and airport buildings, among other things.
“When we got that done, I was scheduled to go to Korea, and it seemed like something happened – a big prayer – and we got changed and we went to the European Theater over in Germany,” he said. “I was there a little over a year. I stayed in for two years. Over there, I got in a special honor guard for my outfit,” Perry continued. “I was special police designated by the battalion commander and worked with the military police. Back in that time, we were in a black outfit, so my battalion commander, he formed this company of special police to work with the military police to see that the men were not mistreated when they went out on pass. So I was in that for quite a while.”
After completing his time of active service, Perry began working with the Department of Defense, which was part of a career of military service that spanned more than 35 years.
Starting at the Jefferson Proving Ground in 1953, Perry served as an over the road driver, commanding everything from buses to passenger cars to trucks with trailers and dump trucks.
“We’d either be on post or off post,” Perry said. “We used to make runs to Indianapolis and Louisville and Cincinnati, somebody did about every other day. I was one of the designated off post drivers. We would go and pick up stuff, or go to the airport and pick up people or take people to the airport and stuff like that. Every now and then we’d have a time of going to Aberdeen, Maryland to the Air Force base, taking ammunition or something to different government organizations.”
After four years at JPG, cutbacks led to Perry being laid off; but that led him to a job at the Veterans Administration in Cincinnati; where he stayed from 1957 until June of 1967, when he came back to Jefferson Proving Ground.
“At the VA I was one of their bonded chauffeurs,” he said. “I would haul mail and money and narcotics and passengers from the VA over to Fort Thomas, Kentucky. I was one of the first black guys to ever hold that job. Now, Brinks does all of that hauling narcotics and money. Back in those days, we just did it. We didn’t have a gun or nothing. Nobody knew anything about it. We used to carry the complete payroll for the employees. We just carried it in a mail satchel with a lock on it.”
He also served as the lead supervisor in janitorial services at the hospital for a time.
Perry moved to Rising Sun in 1957, and remained here ever since.
His wife, Ruth (nee Weaver) was also a military veteran, serving three years in the Air Force.
“A friend of mine from Rising Sun was working over there in Madison, and he kept insisting on me to come to Rising Sun and meet his niece,” Perry said. “I never did want to come; but I made my mind up and I came over one time and met her, and then I just came back and we became friends and fell in love and got married.”
The couple was married in 1954, and Ruth passed away in June of 2004.
The Perrys had three children: a daughter living in Madison; a son living in Lawrenceburg and another still in Rising Sun.
After all those years of service, Ralph must feel pretty proud to lead this year’s Memorial Day parade.
“We done a lot of things in life, some were good and some were bad, as we all do,” he said. “Sometimes we wish we’d done more; but I can say one thing: I was proud of my country. I’m really tore up with these people who want to destroy our earth; destroy the flag. Those who don’t respect the military, don’t respect anything that is government or for this country. I’m kinda ticked off at this generation now who wants to raise all this hell – but haven’t done nothin.”
Ralph is a former member of the American Legion; and is also very active in his church, Shiloh Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon and a trustee.
“That keeps me busy, I’m doing a lot with that,” he says. “God is good to me. I’m 88 years old. I can walk and talk. I walk three or four blocks everyday with my dog. I’ve not had a major health problem. I’m not on any medicine, I don’t take nothing, no pills; but it wasn’t because I’ve been so good; it’s because the Lord has been good to me.”