By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
WALNUT – Husband and wife John and Carolyn Tardy began their most recent campaign to serve America’s veterans and their families 21,000 miles and 12 months ago.
They completed the year of John’s service as commander of the Mississippi Department of the American Legion recently at the state American Legion convention.
John has limited use of his legs, so Carolyn was driver of the organization-provided van through those many miles.
“We were in Vicksburg July 12-14 for the annual state convention, where I became past department commander,” John said. “It was the best attendance we’ve had, with 156 registered Legion members, plus auxiliary members.”
As his involvement with the American Legion has grown, so has Carolyn’s commitment to the American Legion Auxiliary. She now serves as Ripley chapter president, and each of them has served in statewide office. John had the privilege of making a special presentation to Carolyn at last weekend’s state convention.
“Last year Carolyn wrote our department history and won the Toomey Award for the best department history in the United States,” John said. “She’s a great writer and we were fortunate to have her use that expertise on our behalf.”
The family of organizations that make up the American Legion – veterans who served during wartime, whether in combat or not – include the American Legion Auxiliary, the women’s service organization made up of wives, daughters and other female relatives of veterans; Sons of the American Legion, male descendants of veterans; and American Legion Riders, motorcycle riding veterans who serve as escorts and/or guards at military funerals.
John joined the American Legion while living in Florida during the late 1980s to 2000, but became fully committed after retiring to his wife’s hometown of Walnut in 2000 when he had more time to devote to it.
“The Legion was organized to support and take care of veterans, the wives, widows and children of veterans and the military,” he said. “All of our lobbying and political activity is for benefits for veterans. In fact, it was primarily the American Legion that wrote the G.I. Bill.”
John’s military background makes him an effective and tireless spokesman for causes and issues important to veterans.
He retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel after more than 25 years of military service, 20 of them in the U.S. Army, having been introduced to the military at the University of Mississippi in the ROTC. From there the Helena, Ark., native joined the U.S. Navy Reserve, then went on to transfer to the U.S. Air Force for Officer Training School. At the end of four years of active duty with the Air Force, he returned for a period of civilian life working in security management for private business.
He was drawn back to military life in the Army, however, completing all coursework for the Ph.D. degree in public administration and teaching at the college level in various military assignments. His career spanned several areas of specialization, and when he retired in from the Army in Florida, he enjoyed a 12-year career in software development management before a second retirement brought him to Mississippi.
Both John and Carolyn move into the next year keeping the same priorities at the forefront of their American Legion involvement.
“The Legion’s effectiveness is a direct result of the strength of our membership,” John said. “We are three million strong and our goal over the next five years is to grow the organization to five million. We need as many veterans as possible to join us. Our battle for more services and benefits for veterans will be that much stronger if more people join the Legion and help in whatever way possible.”