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Pike Veteran of Year announced: John Ellis honored for service in military, community

At the Nov. 11 Pike County Veterans Day Program at the Community Center, John Ellis was announced as the 2023 Pike County Veteran of the Year. Presenting the award were commission chairman Briar Johnson and outgoing and incoming Pike County Veteran of the Year program directors Todd Childs and Bryan Richardson, respectively.

Kelsey Beam and Austin Allred received the award on behalf of their grandfather John Ellis who was unable to attend due to health issues. Bryan Richardson introduced John Ellis with a condensed version of his nomination request. At the end of the introduction, Richardson said, “As a matter of fact, this is the first time over the years, that I have not seen John at a ceremony, not taking photos, and not wearing his Press badge.”

For the past 13 years, Todd Childs who teaches social studies at the Pike County Middle School had sponsored the Pike County Veteran of the Year program. Every year prior to Veterans Day, he would advertise for nomination submissions, collect submitted nominations, evaluate submissions through a selection board, select the awardee and present the award. The criteria for the award embraces the veteran’s service during and after the veteran’s years in the military and includes volunteerism in local community organizations as well as supporting fellow veterans and active-duty military.
“This year, Todd asked Post 197 if it would take over and sponsor this program. Being that this truly is a great program, and falls in line with Post 197’s current veteran and community programs, the Post gladly accepted and will incorporate all Mr. Childs’ expertise in continuing with this great Pike County program that he initiated,” said Richardson.

John is originally from Griffin and has been a resident of Pike County since 2004. John enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on April 20, 1951. He was trained as a Combat Medic and assigned to England as the Korean War was going on. He was further assigned to the 7559th Medical Group Depot working at the Field Hospital at the Burtonwood Royal Air Force Base. He was assigned duties to the Hospital Ambulance Corps. While performing this duty, John was later promoted to Staff Sergeant and was selected as the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Hospital Ambulance Corps. U.S. servicemen in body bags killed in action during the Korean War would arrive at the airfield, and John would transport them to the installation morgue for further processing and shipment to the U.S.
While in England, John took up the hobby of photography, taking photos of nature and English land marks, sites and events. Having learned of John’s expertise, the airbase newspaper asked John to take photos of the base band and the precision medical drill team. He was also a member of the base Honor Guard Team. John was also highly proficient in musical instruments and played the clarinet as a volunteer in the Burtonwood Air Force Volunteer Band consisting of fellow airmen. The band played all over north England. He also started playing the saxophone in a band with several airmen at the base non-commissioned officer’s club.

In February 1955, John’s next assignment was with the 2349th U.S. Air Force Hospital at Parks Air Base in California.

Once again, he was in charge of the ambulance corps. In April of 1955, John was in a serious automobile accident which left him with many surgeries and lifetime medical disabilities.

His last duty was a Ward Master in charge of and supervisor of one of the two hospital surgery wards.
After serving six years, three months and 20 days – of which 3 years and six months were overseas – Staff Sergeant Ellis was honorably discharged from the Air Force on Aug. 12. For his service, he earned the National Defense Service Medal for his service during the Korean War, Army Good Conduct Medal with two knots, representing two three-year periods of good conduct and the Cold War Victory Medal for his service during the Cold War.

After his service, John worked for Delta Airlines as a mechanic, station agent and customer service agent. After 34 years, in 1991, John retired from Delta Airlines.

On the side, John repaired woodwind and brass musical instruments for more than 50 years – which he continued after his Delta retirement. He started out working in his basement, then built a shop in his backyard.

John also continued to play in various bands that played big band and roaring 20s music with the Southern Aires, South Metro Concert Band, Peachtree Jazz Addition and Peachtree Wind Community Concert Band. John retired from playing a few years ago.

John volunteers much of his current time reporting and taking photos for the Pike County Journal Reporter. He has volunteered working for the paper for more than 10 years, with his first assignment covering the 2013 Concord Jubilee. He is a regular attendee and volunteers at the St Peter of the Rock Church located in The Rock, GA. He provides music for church services, as well as performing with the Psalms and Hymnal Bands. John also volunteers taking photos for the church.

John is a member of the Experiment Aircraft Association, Chapter 468 of the Peachtree Aerodrome in Williamson, GA. He is highly supportive of the Ron Alexander Youth Aviation Program. John is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans for over 20 years.

John joined the American Legion in 2012. He has supported Post 197 with his expertise in photography and writing and attended and reported on Post community patriotic and ceremonial events. He submitted the photos to the Pike County Journal Reporter, and often wrote the articles. His articles in the paper helped promote the Pike County American Legion Post 197 and all the community events it hosts. His photos are also used for the Post 197 annual history reports.

As you have read, not only is John a Korean War era Veteran at the age of 90, he is a highly active veteran, Pike County citizen and an example for other veterans to emulate. Unfortunately this past August, John suffered a stroke and he continues to recover. There are not too many citizens and veterans of John’s age who do what he has done for their nation, county and community.

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