WILMINGTON — Local World War II veteran Lawson Adkins is proud of three things – his family, his freemasonry and his service to country.
Former Private First Class Adkins, 94, from West Virginia, was drafted into the U.S. Army in December, 1942. He served in the 491st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion in Europe from April 16, 1944 through December 5, 1945.
Adkins served in the U.S., England, France and Germany, where he spent most of his time transporting men and equipment to machine gun emplacements and companies, including into the Battle of the Bulge. Adkins received several decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal.
He said he spends Memorial Day reflecting on his time in the Army, especially thinking about “what you did, who you served with.”
For him, those memories range from pride and camaraderie to loss.
In Germany, Adkins remembers soldiers, eager to impress Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower, digging foxholes. He also remembers driving his truck past bulldozers that were being used to dig graves.
In Normandy, France, where he landed on Utah Beach, Adkins said, “All we had to go by to guide us down on the beach were little slits on flashlights.
“We weren’t sure where the road was, so we just went,” Adkins said. “He (Adkins’ machine gunner) said I pulled his machine and bounced him around pretty rough.”
Adkins is also proud of his history with the Masons, or Freemasons – a family tradition for him.
After World War II, he worked as a telegraph operator for the Norfolk & Western Railway. The yard master there was a Mason, as were Adkins’ four uncles. So, in 1951, Lawson’s yard master invited Adkins to become a Mason.
Now, Adkins is a 32nd degree Mason and former Master of Wilmington Lodge No. 51, where he attends when he can. He also is a member of Sabina Lodge No. 324.
In addition to the Masons, Adkins was involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
Adkins is also proud of his family. He has two sons, Dale and Lawson Edwards Adkins, three grandsons and two granddaughters. His grandsons David and John Adkins run Wilmington Auto Center and Jason Adkins is general manager of Clinton County Motor Sports on U.S. 68.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.