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THURSDAY, JULY 5, 2007
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Maj. John Picudella accepts the Spirit of America Humanitarian Award on behalf of Huntsville-based Battery K of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for its work with the Toys for Tots program.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Maj. John Picudella accepts the Spirit of America Humanitarian Award on behalf of Huntsville-based Battery K of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for its work with the Toys for Tots program.

Marines, local women take top Spirit honors

By Tiffeny Hurtado
thurtado@decaturdaily.com · 340-2440

Marine Lt. Col. John D. Harrill Jr. and his son, Maj. John D. Harrill III, said they were honored to be called patriots, but they accepted the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award on behalf of others.

“We are very appreciative and honored to receive this award, but at the same time, we are humbled and want to recognize those who have served and are serving the United States now,” said Harrill Jr.

The Harrells, the first father and son to receive the award, were recognized for courage and leadership while fighting in Vietnam and in Iraq.

Their award was one of three presented Wednesday during the 41st annual Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park.

Maj. John D. Harrill III and his father, retired Lt. Col. John D. Harrill Jr., accept the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award on Wednesday during the Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park. Maj. Harrill distinguished himself during combat in Iraq, his father during the Vietnam War.
Maj. John D. Harrill III and his father, retired Lt. Col. John D. Harrill Jr., accept the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award on Wednesday during the Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park. Maj. Harrill distinguished himself during combat in Iraq, his father during the Vietnam War.
Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti presented the Audie Murphy Award and spoke about their courage and leadership.

“Their brave actions and leadership saved the lives of many comrades,” he said.

Harrill Jr. received the Bronze Star with Valor for actions from June 1970 to June 1971 in Vietnam while he served as senior adviser to the Republic of Vietnam.

His son received a Silver Star with Valor for gallant service in April 2004 when Marines fought Iraqi insurgents to save Ramadi, a city of about 450,000.

Harrill III fought over the course of three days, and when the fighting ended, 14 Marines in his battalion were dead and 40 to 60 were wounded. Enemy losses were estimated to be between 500 and 600.

The Barrett C. Shelton Freedom Award was presented to Barbara Kelly, Nell Standridge and Sally Smartt of Decatur.

Through their work and dedication to the renovation of Delano Park and its rose garden, they inspired others to help restore the park to its original glory.

Melinda Dunn of Decatur Historical Preservation Commission presented the award and said that their work epitomized “what can be achieved when people work together.”

“They worked in the coldest days of winter and the hottest days of summer, and put their mind, body and soul into restoring Delano Park,” she said.

“We celebrate their impact on our community because they have changed this park and our city for the better.”

The trio not only organized fundraisers that brought in nearly $400,000, but also acquired almost $1 million in grant money.

The women were not only able to restore the rose garden, but also to repair the stone wall and gazebo, build a Splashpad water play area where a 1930s-era historic wading pool lay, plant 46 trees, erect a new stone sign at the park entrance on Sixth Avenue Southeast, and built a $120,000 wooden pergola in the rose garden.

Nell Standridge, Sally Smartt and Barbara Kelly,  the three woman who led the effort to renovate and enhance Delano Park, react as their Barrett C. Shelton Freedom Award plaques were unveiled Wednesday.
Nell Standridge, Sally Smartt and Barbara Kelly, the three woman who led the effort to renovate and enhance Delano Park, react as their Barrett C. Shelton Freedom Award plaques were unveiled Wednesday.
“We accept this award on behalf of all the people of the community who believed in what we were doing,” said Smartt.

“This project took on a life of its own, and it would have never been accomplished without people believing in us.”

Huntsville’s Marine Battery K was commended for its work for the Toys for Tots program with the humanitarian award this year, in spite of controversy that surrounded the name of the award.

Heimlich out

It was presented as the Spirit of American Festival Humanitarian Award, not the H.J. Heimlich Humanitarian Award. Dr. H.J. Heimlich’s estranged son has criticized his involvement in research that involves infecting people with malaria.

Marine Maj. John Picudella said it was a privilege to serve the area, and he dedicated the award to the efforts of all Marines.

“Our mission is to provide needy children with a Christmas and serve the community,” Picudella said.

Lt. Gen. Libutti commended Battery K for its work in 11 counties in North Alabama.

“This program has touched the hearts of children all over this region, and their steadfast commitment should be applauded,” Libutti said.

Battery K has collected toys for disadvantaged children at Christmastime for 20 years.

It has distributed toys to 10,000 children in North Alabama, and organized fundraising events to purchase toys.

“These award recipients exemplify our American ideals, and I can’t think of any other way of celebrating our country’s birthday than by honoring them,” said Joe Bongiovanni, master of ceremonies.

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