COMSTOCK – The two, ten-by-six-foot walls, able to encase 400 bricks, complete with the insignia of an honorably discharged veteran now standing on main street, got there with assistance from the Alabama Hunters.
The group, which has continuously hunted in the area since 1957, considers Comstock their home away from home. When Sons of the American Legion Squadron 220 Commander, Casey Doggett, requested fundraising ideas, a 41-year member of the Alabama Hunters, John Thomas “John Boy” McGilberry spoke up.
“At Red Eagle, our gun club in Alabama, whenever funds need to be raised, members bought a gun that we raffled off,” John said. “That way everybody in the club was connected to the purchase. It’s the same way here with the legion. It’s a group effort everybody helped.”
He said a home defense AR 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun, called a UAS 12, was raffled off during Comstock’s annual Fourth of July celebration. It was the third but will not be the final gun raffled. John and the three other Alabama Hunters: Doug Deloach, Scott Robertson, and Roger Jacobs are already looking for next year’s model a Browning A-bolt 6.5 Creedmoor.
“Each gun is a gift from the Alabama Hunters,” John noted. “We raffled off AR 5.56 rifles the two previous years.”
The wall resides upon land gifted to Sons of the American Legion Squadron by Bill Granger, a Vietnam-era Veteran who served from 1965-1967. The three-year fundraising project was far from the first time Granger’s family and the Alabama Hunters have worked together. About 64 years ago Bill’s parents Malon and Dorithy opened their home to the first group of Alabama Hunters, one of whom included a former Comstock resident Homer Matheson.
“Homer was working for Kimberly Clark at the time, where he made friends with hunters from the Childersburg and Sylacauga area,” John said. “He’d tell them I need to take you where I was raised, Comstock, Ne.”
The vast amount of small game, (i.e., pheasants, quail, and ducks) the hunters found incited them to annually return. By 1980 a long-time friend of John, Cecil Davenport, was added to the group. Cecil knew him from Red Eagle Gun Cub and requested John take part in the Alabama Hunter’s annual hunting trip. The trips to the Midwest were where John received his nickname. The television program, The Waltons, was popular at the time and since he was the youngest of the Alabama Hunters at the time the older members would say “Goodnight John Boy as he headed up the stairs each evening.
“Group members are found in Comstock about three months out of the year,” John added. “My residence here was a kit house originally built in 1904. It is painted Confederate Gray, and was previously owned by Bill’s great-grandfather Charles Granger, a Union soldier who survived the Civil War.”
John’s connection to the Civil War does not stop there. In fact, his name was passed down from his grandpa who in turn was named for his two uncles who were killed in the Civil War. He grew up on the family farm, near Childersburg, with his grandpa who taught him hunter safety. After attending Jackson State University, where he studied Business and History in 1971, John joined the U.S. Army Guard and enrolled in Armored Training School in Fort Knox, Kentucky. During his 31 years, 8 months, and 29 days of service, John was a recruiter, a member of the All Guard International “Skeet” Shooting Team, and a Hunter Education Instructor.
“Working in youth development that includes firearm safety is a passion of mine,” John noted. “I feel a moral objective to help train the next generation. If you have the right to own a firearm, you should have the information to train you on how to be safe with it.”
During his “off-time” Alabama’s senior Hunter Safety Instructor, can also be found at Auburn University as a Shotgun Instructor. He said people always remember their first experience with a firearm and that if it hurts a person, they will spend a lifetime trying to get the mental recoil out of their system. Youth programs, like the ones John takes part in, help acquire funds for the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (i.e., the Pittman-Robertson Act). The act provides federal aid to states for the management and restoration of wildlife.
“The more people, young and old, who annually get hunting licenses are contributing to a fund that directly benefits the beautification of their state,” John said. “Last year Alabama received more than 18 million dollars because of the Pittman-Robertson Act.”
John’s fervor for the area is matched by Comstock resident Bernie Kowalski of the Center for American Paleolithic Research. Bernie is a Vietnam Veteran, whose term of service ended when John entered the military, 1971. After being honorably discharged Bernie returned to Comstock, where he met and befriended John 41 years ago. When Bernie heard about the wall, he and his partner, Paula Johnson, were among the first to purchase bricks for it. While the wall is open to veterans from the area, veterans from out of state have already purchased a spot on the wall.
“A friend from Alabama, Mike Barlow, purchased a brick for his friend a sergeant in the U.S. Army, Raymond Gee, who was in the 4th Military Police Unit, 4th Infantry Battalion who was killed in Pleiku in 1968,” John recalled. “As long as you were honorably discharged from the U.S. military, you can be from anywhere and have your name on Comstock’s Veterans Wall.”
Those interested in learning more about Comstock’s Veteran’s Memorial Wall are encouraged to contact Sons of the American Legion members: Casey Doggett (308) 870-3312 or 409 Curran Ave. Berwyn, Ne. 68814; Perry Erikson (308) 215-0232 or 80871 Oak Grove Rd. Comstock, Ne. 68828; Rod Kamarad (308) 215-0748 or 46281 Comstock Rd. Comstock, Ne. 68828; Rod Stefka (308) 760-1153 or P.O. Box 254, Sargent, Ne. 68874