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Generations of service

Like their fathers, Poole children and grandchildren have dedicated time to serve their country

POSTED: June 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/For The Times

The career military man: Harry Poole

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It was good living, growing up on the farm. It was the early 1900s and Marcus A. Poole Sr. raised cotton and vegetables along with eight hard-working children - five sons and three daughters.

Poole farmed the land like his father and grandfather did before him. And like the previous generations of Pooles, he also served his country in the military. He was stationed in England during World War I, and his father and grandfather also spent their time in the service.

Such was also the path for Poole's five sons -- every one of them served in the military, ranging from World War II through the Korean War. A generation later, five of Poole's grandchildren kept the tradition going, serving in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm, and during peacetime in between.

Each generation of the Poole family can count time served in the military, but it's not the type of talk that comes up around the dinner table. Each of the Poole brothers served his time, and while Harry, the second oldest, made the military a career, the other brothers simply signed up as a service to their country.

Each brother can methodically recount the bases and countries to which he was assigned. Each one saw a unique aspect of the world either during or just after World War II.

And for each, it's simply part of life.

"I was always interested in the military, so I went and joined," said Harry Poole, 81, the second oldest of the Poole brothers. "I was in Franklin, Va., and the draft board called me. I went to Fort McPherson (in Atlanta) and they wanted me to come back in two months (to be drafted for World War II), and I said, ‘If I'm going in the military, I might as well leave now.'"

Harry said he knew of his father's service in World War I, but didn't know any details. His older brother, Marcus Poole Jr., said he recalls one memory of the war his father recounted for him.

"Only thing he said was one time he was talking about when he was in England, and he said the Lord fed him one time," Marcus said. "He said a bread truck came along and a loaf rolled out and right up to his feet. That's the only thing. That's the only thing I remember."

The patriarch of the family, Marcus Poole Sr., served in the U.S. Army during World War I from 1918 to 1919. He spent his tour of duty in England and was honorably discharged at Fort Gordon near Augusta, then known as Camp Gordon.

His oldest son, Marcus Poole Jr., served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946. He served in combat in the Philippines and achieved the rank of corporal before he was discharged at Fort McPherson.

Harry Poole made the military his career by serving in the U.S. Army, the Army Air Force and the U.S. Air Force from 1945 to 1968. He started with World War II occupation forces in Europe and later served in the South Pacific. He received four Air Force commendation medals and achieved the rank of chief master sergeant before retiring.

Dannie Poole entered the Air Force in 1948 and was discharged in 1954. He served in Japan and the Philippines and specialized in the petroleum, oil and lubricants field before he was discharged with the rank of staff sergeant.

Earl Poole entered the Army in 1954 and was later assigned to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where he received tech school training. He then transferred to Karlsruhe, Germany, and was assigned to the 18th Ordnance Company. He was discharged in 1957.

And the youngest son of Marcus Poole Sr., Jerry Poole, entered the U.S. Army in 1964. After receiving advanced infantry training, he joined the Gainesville-based Army Reserve unit and was discharged as a staff sergeant in 1974.

Military as career
Harry, who spent 14 years of his military career abroad, said his career overlapped with all of his brothers.

"As a matter of fact, one of my brothers was stationed in Japan and I was in Korea, and I went to Japan and saw him," he said. "And one of my other brothers was in Germany and I was in Germany, so I saw him there."

After World War II ended, Harry was stationed in Germany and was serving as the enlisted aide to the base commander. Originally, Harry said, he was supposed to stay in the position a week before being rotated out. But his commanding officer had other ideas and kept Harry on with him until 1947, when he was due to come back to the United States to be discharged.

"But he advised me to stay in the military, and he was going to Germany, and he said, ‘If you stay in the military, I'll take you with me.'"

He had time to think about the offer on the ship on the way back, he said.

"I thought about everything he advised me on, and as I was processed to get out of the service, I decided I wanted to make it a career," he said. "So I told the sergeant I wanted to re-enlist. There was a captain sitting there, and he said, ‘This man wants to re-enlist.' And he said, ‘Sign him up.'"

His career took him to Korea, Austria and Turkey, along with numerous bases around the United States. His decision to stay in the military also allowed him to experience the Air Force before it became an official branch of the armed forces.

"The weather was real stormy and cold at Fort Francis E. Warren. That was the Army at that time; they didn't have an Air Force," he said of the time he spent at what is now F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. "I was going to school and each day I'd check the bulletin board to determine if there was any information pertaining to me.

"And there was a sign, ‘Need 15 volunteers for the Army Air Corps,' so I signed up."

A mother's worry
For Harry's older brother, Marcus, his time in World War II was strictly business. It was something he did, he said, and afterward he went on with his life.

"We was fighting the Japanese and I was in Manila. ... I was in a war zone most of my time overseas. So I just wasn't too interested (in talking about it)," he said. "I just got out and I got married. We've been married 62 years."

Two of Marcus' three sons, Johnny and Tommy Poole, also enlisted in the military. Both joined right after high school, he said. Tommy joined the Army and went to Vietnam while Johnny joined the Navy and traveled to Turkey and Europe.

"I don't reckon there was anything, any where or any way that caused them (to join)," Marcus said. "They just volunteered."

Marcus' wife, Meredith, said her boys decided to join because they figured they would be drafted during the Vietnam War, and signing up voluntarily at least allowed them to pick which branch of the military to join. She admitted it was hard to see her first boy go off to war.

"I worried about him," she said, recalling the time they dropped him off to enlist in Atlanta. "We got started back home and I worried about him and prayed that he wouldn't get lost or something because he wasn't there when we left. And we started back home and got way up the road, and turned to see him.

"And you know where he was? He had met some guys and they went somewhere to get them some Cokes or something. So we didn't worry about him no more."

She imagined her husband's mother feeling the same way when he was called to serve in World War II.
"He was first to leave," she said. "Before he went to Atlanta (to enlist), that was as far as he'd been from home. That was hard on his mother."

Marcus said he didn't give his sons any advice before they went off to war. "We didn't give no advice, just our hearts were broken," he said. "We just hate to see 'em go and all. We didn't want to give any advice. We just told them 'bye."

The next generation
In all, five grandchildren of the family patriarch, Marcus Poole Sr., also have enlisted in the military.
John Barry House, son of Poole's daughter, Frances, joined the Army in 1974 as part of the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was a Green Beret, and achieved the rank of specialist 5 before he was discharged in 1978.

Brian Sullivan, son of Poole's daughter, Kathleen, served in the Navy and Navy Reserves from 1984 to 1987. He was an aircraft mechanic on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and achieved the rank of E-5, or petty officer second class.

Johnny Poole, the oldest son of Marcus Poole Jr., served with the Navy aboard the USS Rockbridge, an amphibious attack transport ship, from 1966 to 1968. He traveled to France, Italy and Turkey and was discharged with the rank of assistant master at arms, E-3.

Tommy Poole, the middle son of Marcus Poole Jr., served in the Army from 1968 to 1972, including nine months in Vietnam at Tay Ninh base camp as an artillery surveyor. He received a Bronze Star and an Army commendation during his tour of duty and was discharged with the rank of specialist 4.

Kelley Poole, son of Dannie Poole, served in the Army from 1980 to 2004 and served six months in Operation Desert Storm. He was a heavy duty construction supervisor and retired with the rank of E-7, or sergeant first class.

Sadly, Tommy Poole died in a hunting accident just months after returning from Vietnam.

"He had come back from Vietnam, built his home," said his father, Marcus. "He married while he was in the service and he built his home and went deer hunting with his friends up there, and a stranger in the woods shot him and run off.

"And a month later they found (the shooter) and called me that they'd found the one who shot my son," Marcus said. "So Tommy went through Vietnam and come home and got killed in the woods."

Still remain close
Of all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Marcus Poole Sr., Tommy is the only one who is deceased.

Now in their 70s and 80s, the Poole siblings remain close - literally. All but two of the eight brothers and sisters keep homes on the original family homestead not far from Gillsville, while one brother lives in Florida and one sister lives in Virginia.

Marcus Poole Sr. is buried at nearby Timber Ridge Baptist Church, where Marcus Poole Jr., a bricklayer by trade, was a longtime Baptist minister. He pastored there and at other churches in the area. He was also pastor at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cleveland, where his son, Terry, is pastor now. His son, Johnny, is a deacon there.

Last year, Marcus was given an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from Faith Baptist Institute and Bible College in Resaca.

After retiring from the Army, Harry worked in law enforcement in Texas. Dannie, like brother Marcus, also worked as a brick mason after the military. "If I had a penny for every brick they laid, I'd be rich," Harry said of his brothers.

Earl taught at Gainesville State College and the youngest son, Jerry, is retired from General Motors.
But despite the rich military history in the family, Harry said it's not something that is talked about. Rather, their service was something almost expected; a duty that must be fulfilled.

"Well, you know, we all knew in advance what we would be faced with if we had to go to war, and of course we didn't mind it at all because my father and several of our cousins were in (World War I)," Harry said. "We just kind of keep it to ourselves. We never discuss anything unless the subject comes up. We'll discuss it at length if the subject comes up, but we don't normally speak of the military.
"We just go about our normal lifestyle."

For Marcus, it's one facet of a full, rich life spent surrounded by family. And, he said, the siblings feel blessed to have been able to enjoy each other's company all these years.

"It was a good life growing up. We had a good life," Marcus said. "We've had a good relationship, all of us. We had a good relationship all these years, all eight of us."


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