He waited 77 years, but earlier this week Congressman Chuck Fleischmann presented Cletis Bailey with his Bronze Star from the Battle of the Bulge.
In a ceremony coordinated by Hamilton County Veteran Services Office staff, the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council and the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR, family, friends and fellow veterans celebrated Mr. Bailey’s military career that spanned WWII through the Vietnam Conflict. It was a memorable evening with a special veteran-patriot who continues to serve his community and his church.
Mr. Bailey graduated from Bradley Central High School and, shortly thereafter, was drafted into the U. S. Army, serving two years in the 84th Infantry Division, 333 Regiment, K Company, 4th Platoon. He saw action in the Battle of the Bulge and later during the occupation of Germany, rising to the rank of Corporal E-5. Following World War II, Mr. Bailey returned home and joined the Army Reserves. Three years later, he enlisted in the U. S. Air Force and, after a career that included two tours in the Republic of South Vietnam, Bailey retired as a Master Sergeant.
The celebratory event, held at the VSO Conference Room in the McDaniels Building on East Highland Park Avenue, was featured remarks and presentations from Chuck Alsobrook, Hamilton County VSO, Amy Bailes VS Associate, LTC Bill Brooks, Chairman of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council, Jennifer Sawyer Harvey, Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR, Linda Moss Mines, Chattanooga and Hamilton County Historian and Honorary Regent, CJR and Jessica Dumitru, Honorary Regent, CJR. A patriotic backdrop included a slide show of photos from Mr. Bailey military service and his recent return to Normandy along with other WWII veterans.
The event’s high point came when Congressman Fleischmann presented Mr. Bailey with the Bronze Star which had been approved in 1945 but had never been presented. The citation read: “The United States of America – To all who shall see these presents, Greetings: This is to certify that the President of the United States of America, Authorized by Executive Order Number, 24 August 1962 has awarded THE BRONZE STAR to PRIVATE FIRST CLASS CLETIS A. BAILEY, Company K, 3D Battalion, 333D Infantry Regiment for meritorious achievement in active ground combat against the enemy on 1 February, 1945, while serving with the 84th Infantry Division in Germany. Private First Class Bailey’s exemplary performance of duty in active ground combat was in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the Army of the United States.”
The awarding was accompanied by a standing ovation for Mr. Bailey.
Mr. Bailey, 96.5 years old, was joined by his four children, Sandra, Cletis, Jr., Mark and Robert, and their families for the celebration which also acknowledged his continuing community service. He is an active member of the McDonald-Black Fox Ruritan Club, has held membership in the McDonald Methodist Church for over 70 years and is well-known for his ‘sunshine’ visits to older neighbors and friends, often accompanied by vegetables he has harvested from his garden. Years ago, Mr. Bailey assumed responsibility for the regular placement of flags on all military graves at the Lee Cemetery in McDonald and maintains a database of all veterans buried there so that their service will never be forgotten.
Mr. Bailey, a member of the Greatest Generation, was gracious in his acceptance of the delayed recognition for his service and responded with “Thank you. I’m proud to be an American.”