Local groups working to keep war hero's memory alive

Aug. 29—WILLIAMSBURG — Three local organizations came together Saturday to honor a local hero.

J.C. Paul Detachment of the Whitley County Marine Corps League, Whitley County Motorcycle Group and Backroads of Appalachia partnered together to see that Medal of Honor recipient Joe C. Paul's story will forever live in the hearts of those who visit a new memorial inside the Whitley County Courthouse halls.

Greg Sims, Commandant of the J.C Paul Detachment Marine Corps League of Whitley County, has become passionate about telling the story of the Lance Corporal Paul.

Paul spent nearly 15 years in the Nevisdale community in a coal camp and attended school in the area.

When his father moved to Dayton, Ohio, for his job at the railroad, Paul struggled to adjust —staying in trouble among his peers and pushing against authority.

In just two years, Paul would change his life.

"Marine Corps was good for him like it was for all of us," Sims said. "He straightened up and became a Lance Corporal and in 1965, that was a pretty good accomplishment in less than two years."

Paul came a platoon leader in the Vietnam War where he was involved in Operation Starlight which was one of the first acts of the Vietnam war.

"Joe's Platoon got locked into a very hot and heavy firefight," Sims narrated. "Five of his marines were seriously wounded. They weren't going to be able to get out."

Sims took a long pause as he became emotional.

"Joe did what had to be done. He got on the front lines, suppressed the fire and got the other guys out," Sims said. "I have told this story a thousand times and it gets me every time."

He continued telling about the tragic outcome of Joe's heroic act, fighting back a few tears.

"He died the next day in 1967 at 19 and that was Joe's life."

Sims noted that in Dayton, they make Paul's life a big deal since that was his address when he enlisted but Paul spent the majority of his short 19 years in Williamsburg.

After eight years of effort through Sims and the community, along with the Williamsburg Motorcycle Group and Backroads of Appalachia and the local Marine Corps League, Paul's story is finally being told in his Appalachian home nearly 60 years later.

Saturday, the community gathered to celebrate Paul's life at a sneak peek of the display in the old Whitley County Court House hall displaying his uniform, medal of honor and historical photos and literature telling Paul's story that will continue to grow.

Jay Fryman, local to the Williamsburg area, Director of Backroads of Appalachia and Founder of the Whitley County Motorcycle Group, has been working with Sims to raise money through the organizations he leads.

Fryman grew up in the same area Paul did.

"When we found out about Joe C. Paul, we already worked with the Marine Corps League on Toys for Tots," Fryman said. "I knew immediately I had to put the Joe C. Paul Trail in the Backroads of Appalachia Mobile App as a location."

The app is GPS enabled with over 60 trails on it and sponsored by the USDA, the state of Kentucky, and the state of West Virginia. This app promotes the Backroads of Appalachia mission to promote tourism and motorsport in Appalachian coal towns that sometimes get forgotten about.

"The Whitley County Motorcycle Group did a ride after making donations to the Joe C. Paul memorial fund in his honor, which now lives in the app for others to enjoy the ride too and learn about Joe C. Paul," Fryman said.

The trail shows where Paul grew up and they are working on getting a historical marker and memorials placed near the old coal mining camp where he lived that the trail leads to.

"People can come here and see that marker that will be a point of interest in our mobile app and memorialize and honor him the way he should have been 60 years ago," Fryman said.

Those who are interested can make a $20 or more donation to receive a Joe C. Paul patch for their riding vest, or a limited quantity challenge coin to remember his life with.

Williamsburg locals can honor one of their very own by taking the time to see the display in the old courthouse building and share his story with others.

"Not many people that grew up here knew about Joe Calvin Paul, I most certainly didn't," Fryman said. "They need to know more about him and his story and the fact we have a Medal of Honor winner right here in the mountains of Kentucky. That is huge."

You can donate to the Joe C. Paul Memorial Fund through Backroads of Appalachia, the Whitley County Motorcycle Group or the Williamsburg Marine Corps League.

"Donate to the fund, come out and see his uniform with his Medal of Honor," Fryman encouraged. "As a community, let's make this happen for Joe Calvin Paul.