Veterans Day Tribute – Rector family just one of many locally who served, lost loved ones for our freedoms

Posted November 11, 2020 at 2:14 pm


Rector family just one of many locally who served, lost loved ones for our freedoms

Albany First Baptist Church held a tribute to our veterans and active military service personnel for the Sunday service on November 8, 2020.

The service was organized by Dr. Carol B. Peddicord and Lora Brewington and included a slide presentation honoring past and present service men and women who have connections with Albany First Baptist Church.

The entire service can be seen on Albany First Baptist Church’s Facebook page.

Jackie Sawyers presented the following tribute written by her mother, Mary Agnes Rector Sawyers, during the service:

“God Bless America and Its Military Personnel and Their Families.”

Veteran’s Day is a day established to salute and honor military personnel and their families for their devotion and the sacrifices they have made to our country.

The first time the generations of today can remember military action that of necessity led us to dedicate ourselves to the United States of America in order to survive was the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. America, Kentucky, Clinton County, Albany First Baptist Church and thousands of congregations across the country suffered a tragic loss on that day.

Clay Cooper Rector, the son of Wendell and Lela Rector, and the brother of Mary Agnes Rector Sawyers, was killed in action while serving in the United States Navy on the USS Arizona when the bombs struck in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941. His body is still entombed there in Pearl Harbor in the underwater remains of the USS Arizona.

In those days, there were no television news casts, most families did not have radio, there was no internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging or other forms of social media with which we are familiar in today’s society.

The Rector family first learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona from Mary Agnes’ uncle, Artie Barnes, who had a radio and came to the house to notify the family that there had been an attack on Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona had been hit by the bombs.

It was not until weeks later the family was officially notified by telegram from the Department of the Navy that Clay had perished in the attack.

Two flags were on display during the service at Albany First Baptist Church. The flag that was presented to Clay’s parents months after his family was notified by telegram he had been killed in action was displayed. Of historical significance is the fact that that flag only contains 48 stars for the 48 states in the Union at that time.

The other flag on display was flown over the USS Arizona Memorial and was given to Mrs. Rector when members of Albany First Baptist Church took her on vacation to Hawaii. Bro. Mike Watts accompanied Mrs. Rector to the USS Arizona Memorial where her son Clay’s body remains entombed, and the flag was ceremoniously raised and lowered in memory of her son, Clay, and presented to her.

It is significant to note that Clay’s Clinton County High School class ring is buried with him in the remains of the USS Arizona. For many, many years, the principal of Clinton County High School would not permit the design of the class ring to be changed in memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the impact it had on our nation.

Twenty years later, the Rectors suffered the tragedy of the loss of a second son, Wendell Thompson Rector, while in active service for the United States Navy.

Thompson had followed in his brother Clay’s footsteps and joined the United States Navy at a young age as soon as he was old enough to do so during World War II.

Thompson served his country for almost twenty years. He would often be stationed in foreign countries for years at a time without being able to come home to his family, and communication with his family was limited at best. Thompson served in the Navy and was overseas for many years in multiple conflicts and arenas before being declared missing in action during the Cuban Crisis in 1963. He was ultimately pronounced dead in 1964. Yet again, just as with their son, Clay, there was no body that came home to be buried.

It should be noted the Rectors also had two daughters who were in the service in World War II.

Pauline and Josephine Rector both volunteered and served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corp. With the service of their two daughters, four of the Rector’s eight children served in World War II.

Fortunately, the Rector girls who served came home safe and sound and lived long, happy and healthy lives.

Despite having lost both of their sons in the military, the Rectors never lost their faith in the Lord or this country.

The Rectors never knew exactly what happened to either of their sons nor how much they suffered before their deaths. They did not get the closure of having a flag draped casket flown home so they could bury their sons. Yet, they supported the principles and tenets upon which this great nation was founded and prayed for our country and its military personnel every single day of their lives.

The Rector family recognizes they are not the only family to have made sacrifices for this country. Families across this great nation with loved ones in the military suffer losses every day. We often do not hear of those losses, but they exist and their families must endure the pain of those losses for the rest of their lives.

Clinton County has had a significant number of its men and women who have answered the call to serve in the military to protect our country, and several still have family members serving our great nation at this time.

Thank you to each of you and your loved ones for serving. The sacrifices of our military personnel and their families are significant and should never be taken for granted by any of us.

Service men and women have to leave their families behind for weeks, months, and often years at a time to serve our country in venues and under conditions that we cannot even begin to imagine.

They do so to insure that we can enjoy the freedom that we have today and can safely sit in our homes and enjoy our lives. They are often in locations where communication with their families at home is limited. They are privy to top secret information which cannot be shared with anyone which places an amazing amount of stress of them.

They witness atrocities and events which would make us all shudder and cry. They put themselves in harm’s way without blinking an eye to keep us all safe.

Our veterans often return home with physical and emotional injuries and disabilities with which they must live for the rest of their lives. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their service, which we can never repay.

Their service in the military takes a toll on each and every member of their family due to the risk of the unknown. The family members of our military personnel often do not know:

· Where their loved one is located.

· What conditions they have to endure.

· Whether they have shelter, food, and other conveniences that we all consider to be customary necessities of our daily lives, and,

· Most importantly, whether they are safe and when or if they will ever come home safely.

Military service men and women have to miss many family gatherings they would like to attend and at which their families would like for them to be present.

They miss the deaths and funerals of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other loved ones. They miss weddings (of course, not their own). They miss holiday celebrations and other family traditions. They miss birthdays. They often even miss the birth of their own children. There is always an empty seat at the table for them until they return home safely.

We need to pray for and support our military personnel, both active, reserve and our retired veterans, and their families daily. Without their service, we would not be standing here today.

To paraphrase the words of the classic Lee Greenwood song, God Bless the U.S.A., it is because of the service of our military men and women that we can:

“Thank our lucky stars to be living here today, because the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away.

We are proud to be Americans, where at least we know we’re free. And, we won’t forget the MEN AND WOMEN who served and died to give that right to us.

We will gladly stand up and defend her still today, because there is no doubt, we LOVE this land, God Bless the U.S.A.”

Veteran’s Day is a day set aside to honor our military, but we should honor, respect and pray for them and their families every single day. Thank you to all of our service men and women and their families for your service and sacrifice to this great country.

The late Lela Rector is shown above in a photo staring at an image of her son, Clay Rector, who was killed during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. His body is still entombed in the underwater remains of the USS Arizona.