FRANKFORT — Three local World War II veterans were commissioned as Kentucky Colonels today by Gov. Andy Beshear at the Capitol.
Recognized were Staff Sgt. Henry Breithaupt and Cpl. Elwood Richardson, both of Christian County, and Sgt. Jim Ethridge of Trigg County.
“We can never do enough to thank these veterans who, as young men, risked their lives to stand up to tyranny and forever changed the course of history,” Beshear said. “I am honored just to be in their presence. As a small thank you for their selfless service to our nation, I am proud to honor each of them as a Kentucky Colonel.”
Ethridge served from 1946-1952 during World War II and the Korean War. He was only 15 years old when he joined the Army. He was awarded the World War II occupation medal of Japan; World War II victory medal; Korean War service medal with three France engagement services; Korean defense good conduct medal with two oak leaf clusters; unit citation United Nations service medal; presidential unit citation; and Korean president unit citation.
Breithaupt served from 1946-1967 in three wars protecting our country: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. After his service, he was a truck driver until his retirement in 1999.
Richardson spent 21 months overseas in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations. He is entitled to wear the American Theater ribbon with two bronze stars, Philippines Liberation ribbon, Good Conduct medal, and the Victory medal. Corporal Richardson served in the Pacific in New Guinea and in the Philippines. He and his regiment were on their way to invade Japan when bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima ending the war. After the war ended, he assisted Bataan Death March prisoners of war prepare to return home. After discharge from military service, he worked in South Bend, Ind., and eventually returned to Hopkinsville.
The title of Kentucky Colonel dates back to around 1813. The Kentucky Militia had just returned from a highly successful campaign during the War of 1812. When the Militia disbanded, Governor Issac Shelby commissioned Charles S. Todd, one of his officers in the campaign, as an Aide-de-Camp on the governor’s staff. Todd’s official rank and grade was Colonel.
Today, Kentucky Colonels are talented and capable men and women appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky because of their service to the state and country. They act as the governor’s ambassadors of Kentucky’s rich history and culture across the world.
Lela Hale, local service coordinator for the veterans, said the experience was “the best day ever.”
Hale said the men also received citations from Rep. Walker Thomas and Sen. Whitney Westerfield.