Honoring our fallen heroes

Community honors local soldiers killed in Vietnam War

By Perry Gravely
For The Courier

PICKENS — Local soldiers killed in the Vietnam War are still being honored throughout the community more than 50 years after their deaths.

According to the Pickens County War Memorial at the Courthouse, 33 soldiers from Pickens County were killed in Vietnam. Their friends and families continue to honor these heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, including community memorial services held recently for two Pickens natives — Ephriam Rutledge “Rut” Liles II and Charles Johnson Jr.

Ephriam Rutledge ‘Rut’ Liles II

At a recent ceremony for the dedication of a memorial garden, members of the Pickens community stood at rapt attention while Boy Scouts from Troop 51 saluted the American flag as it was lowered to half-mast to the sound of a fiddle rendering taps from its strings in honor of Liles. A sizeable crowd had gathered to celebrate the life of a native son of Pickens whom friends and family called “Rut” and the dedication of a memorial garden at the Troop 51 Scout Hut where Rut was an Eagle Scout.

Rut, who was known for his wonderful smile, made a major impact until his life was cut short when his helicopter was shot down during a reconnaissance mission in the Phuoc Long Province of South Vietnam on July 4, 1969. Several of his old friends spoke at the dedication ceremony and described Rut as an “all-American boy,” a true American hero and the embodiment of a Boy Scout Law. These friends still gather each year to celebrate his birthday more than 50 years after his death.

Rut was born in Pickens on May 13, 1947, to Rut and Mary Liles. His sister, Mary Liles Gravely, still remembers the many football games played in their front yard on Glassy Mountain Street and Rut’s passion for the outdoors and sports. At Pickens High School, he played football among other sports and was an active member of Boy Scout Troop

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