Monday, February 3, 2020

Minford Stearns was a Prisoner of War


What is the Test of a man?

The Korean Conflict resulted in different emotions being brought back home to some Clinton countians. Six months after the fighting began on June 25, 1950, Private Joe Elmore's family was told he was missing in action. His partial remains arrived back home 68 years later. James Morrison grew up not far from Elmore. At Heartbreak Ridge, the Master Sergeant saved another soldiers' Iife and performed other courageous feats to earn him enough citations to make him the Korean Conflict's most decorated soldier from Clinton County. And then there was the telegram that William and Dorothy Stearns received saying their son, Minford, had been captured during a battle on July 14, 1950, just three weeks after the conflict began. He would remain a prisoner of war for thirty-seven months, or until after the conflict ended on July 27, 1953.

Minford L. Stearns was Clinton County's only POW during the Korean Conflict. Upon his return home a celebration, organized by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars group, was held in his honor. October 3, 1953 was declared Minford L. Stearns Day in Albany. The headline in the Clinton County News said "2,500 WATCH PARADE GIVEN IN HONOR OF CLINTON COUNTY'S ONLY EX-P.O.W." Most all businesses shut down for the celebration that day. All of Clinton County's veterans marched in the parade and the Albany Nazarene Church Band performed. Sgt. Alvin C. York presented Stearns with gifts totaling around a thousand dollars. Superintendent L.H. Robinson delivered the welcome home address. Another speaker was State Senator Ed Warinner.

It wasn't until he became a prisoner of war that the Army learned Stearns had been under age when he enlisted, and being a prisoner of war didn't stop him from staying in the service. He went on to serve two tours of duty in Vietnam, spendings most of his career in military intelligence, serving as captain while stationed at Fort Bragg and Sergeant First Class while serving with the First Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. His final promotion was to the rank of Major. When he retired in 1975, Stearns had served in the Army for 26 years. Sixty-six months of that was spent in combat. He earned numerous awards and citations.

Major Stearns was only 47 years old when he died on Feb. 3, 1980, forty years ago today, in Oakdale, Louisiana, where he had lived for several years. A poem engraved on his tombstone, entitled "The Test of a Man," accurately describes Elmore, Morrison, Stearns and all other men or women who ever served in the armed forces.

The test of a man is the fight that he makes, The grit that he daily shows, The way he stands upon his feet and takes life’s numerous bumps and blows. A coward can smile when there’s naught to fear, and nothing his progress bars, But it takes a man to stand and cheer while the other fellow stars. It isn’t the victory after all, but the fight that a brother makes. A man when driven against the wall, Still stands erect and takes the blows of fate with his head held high, Bleeding and bruised and pale is the man who will win and fate defied, for he isn’t afraid to fail.

Regardless of whether or not the soldier won or lost the battle, he stood with valor and determination. He passed the test.

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