ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - There are hundreds of untold stories of men and women in South Georgia who serve or have served our country, selflessly.
Each month, WALB and Montlick and Associates take time to recognize these “Heroes Among Us.”
An Albany pastor recalled his time serving our country in Vietnam.
Rance Pettibone, Sr. grew up in Foley, Alabama with a family of farmers.
“I was planning on being a farm teacher, but I got tired of that,” he explained.
However, he wanted to do something else.
He decided to go to Tuskegee Institute, to which he was accepted and received a scholarship.
But, he never made it.
His cousin got drafted into the U.S. military during the 1960s.
“He said, ‘I’m not going in the Army...I’m going to Canada,’” Pettibone explained. “I said, ‘No, you can’t do that. Come on. I’ll join with you.’”
That began a life of service.
“He stayed three years,” Pettibone said of his cousin. “I stayed 22 years.”
After initial training, he went to paratrooper school.
“The first plane I had ever been on...I had to jump out of,” he said. “That was an experience.”
Then, he went to war.
“My first deployment was to Vietnam,” he explained.
That deployment was rocky to say the least.
“I got shot twice when I was an infantryman, and I got shot once when I went back to be a supply sergeant,” the veteran said.
He said two of those injuries were not life-threatening.
The other, though, was.
“A sniper shot me, and it hit me right up under (my arm), and it just went right through.”
It happened when he was serving as a sniper.
“I’m bleeding like a stuck hog,” Pettibone said. “I just ran. We knew where to go. When I got there, my two guys, my two armor-bearers, they saved me. They saved my life.”
Others weren’t as lucky.
“It was 226 of us that went together, but I found out later that all those guys that went, only 63 returned. I will never, ever forget a lot of guys that I went over there with,” he explained.
After leaving the battlefield, Pettibone traveled all over with the Army.
While in Europe, he followed in his father’s footsteps: planting churches.
“I think we ended up with 103 churches we had started throughout Europe,” he said of his ministry partnership with a couple other men.
Once he got out of the military in the 80s, his heart for service through ministry only grew.
He pastored several churches in Georgia before ending up at Second Bethesda Baptist Church in Albany, becoming the pastor almost 20 years ago.
It’s the longest he’s stayed at one church.
“They are the best people,” he said of his church family. “They are eager to learn, and that makes it easy.”
He explained that these days, it’s easy to remember why he put his life on the line on the battlefield: for the people of the United States.
“That’s why I fought. So that you have your individual rights. Everybody...I don’t care who it is,” he said.
If you know a special military hero you want to nominate, click here.