Six Grayson Countians were recently appointed Kentucky Colonels by Gov. Steve Beshear for their work on veterans’ issues.
The six — Jim and April Lish, Anthony Noe, Carol Duke, John Barton and Joan Devo — received their commissions as Colonels during a brief recognition ceremony Friday morning, Aug. 17, by Grayson County Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon.
Members of Leitchfield’s American Legion Post 81, the six helped organize a recent book signing tour of Kentucky by retired Master Sgt. Gordon Ewell as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Ewell, a Utah native and combat engineer, became an expert in improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, after his deployment to Iraq in December 2005. He became part of the first two-man teams whose mission was to find and destroy IEDs before they could harm American troops, convoys and Iraqi civilians.
He performed 59 of those missions — some with Jim Lish — and co-authored a first-of-its-kind Route Clearance manual used to train the IED locating teams. While his work saved countless lives, it permanently changed his. Vehicles he was in were hit by IEDs six times, leaving him with broken bones, hearing and vision loss, spinal damage and traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical problems.
Struggling with his PTSD, Ewell began writing poetry at a cathartic way to address his emotions. That served as a springboard to his other writing projects.
Ewell used Leitchfield as a temporary base during his roughly week-long tour around Kentucky. In addition to his local appearance, he signed books at Fort Knox, Elizabethtown, Fort Campbell, Paducah, Frankfort, Bardstown and St. Mathews.
Locally the book signing, hosted by the American Legion’s Department of Kentucky, raised about $1,500. Organizers did not have a statewide total available Friday.
Lish said Ewell plans to return to Kentucky at a later date for another book signing tour. Signed copies of his books are still available locally — Lish said Ewell signed several copies in advance his last night in Leitchfield — and are $20 each. For more information, call (270) 200-0594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kentucky Colonel commissions are the highest honor awarded by the commonwealth, and are given by the governor and secretary of state to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation.
The tradition began in 1813 during the second term of Gov. Isaac Shelby. He had just returned from leading the Kentucky Militia on a highly successful “War of 1812” campaign. He named one of his officers, Charles Todd, as an “Aid-De-Camp” on the Governor’s staff with the rank and grade of Colonel. Later governors commissioned Colonels to act as their protective guard; they wore uniforms and were present at most official functions. Other governors continued this practice, and by the 1920s the ranks of the Colonels had grown considerably.
In 1928, an effort began to organize the Colonels into “a great non-political brotherhood for the advancement of Kentucky and Kentuckians.” In 1932, The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels was formally born.
Today, the order is incorporated as a charitable organization with by-laws directing it to be non-partisan, non-profit and dedicated to good works within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.