Many who know 92-year-old Clifton Lassiter of East Milton know him as a hard working farmer who, even at his age, is not afraid to get out and tend to his 180 acre-farm.
But up until Wednesday, very few knew him as a war hero.
Lassiter earned the Purple Heart during his brave efforts fighting overseas in Guadalcanal, formerly known as Isatabu.
The WWII Purple Heart recipient was never properly congratulated for his brave efforts, until Wednesday. To him, it was never too late.
“He has never had an official Purple Heart ceremony,” said master of ceremonies Phillip Polk who works for Gulf Coast Accounting Services. “It was probably about time.”
Lassiter was assigned to a division in World War II that was highly decorated, but one in which very few returned from battle according to Larry Jensen. Jensen spoke at the ceremony about Lassiter and had a number of surprises for the veteran.
“Clifton Lassiter is an incredible man,” Polk said. “This was long overdue.”
Jensen researched Lassiter’s division and found that almost 50 percent of his division was wounded in battle.
So in recognition of his heroism, members of the community, including the Pace NJROTC came to Pace Community Church to pay their
respects to Lassiter.
Lassiter said that the recognition for his war efforts was more than he could have asked for.
“This is just more than a country boy with an eighth grade education can bare,” Lassiter said as he held back tears.
Lassiter joined the Army on January 10, 1942 when he was 22 years old.
At the ceremony Wednesday, Lassiter was awarded with several items, all of which were “Made in America” according to Jensen.
“There are many things out there today…like American flags, that aren’t made in America,” Jensen said.
The first thing awarded to Lassiter was a bronze soldier figurine, and a Santa Rosa County Veteran’s Memorial mug. The mugs are sold at the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza office and proceeds from the sale of the mugs go to the Veteran’s Memorial Foundation. The
foundation helps pay for vital services for veterans in Santa Rosa County.
District two commissioner Bob Cole, also presented Lassiter with a recognition from the county. Cole said he has known Lassiter as a
good friend for a long time.
Cole presented Lassiter with a proclamation that proclaimed Oct. 31, 2012 as Clifton Lassiter Day in Santa Rosa County.
Lassiter was also given an American Flag, which was actually made in America. He was also promised a flagpole to hang that flag on. The pole will be erected in his front yard in East Milton.
“I lost so many buddies,” Lassiter said. “It’s a privilege to be here today.
“Thank God for America.”