CLANTON - AL — One of Chilton County's most decorated veterans will soon receive a new military honor. Korean War veteran Hugh "Lally" Bates will soon be honored in the nation's capitol along with other soldiers who served in the war six decades ago.Bates shared his story of freedom with ABC 33/40 on our country's annual holiday celebrating America's freedom."I've always been a patriotic person," Bates said.If his front yard is any indication, Bates certainly knows a thing or two about celebrating Independence Day and the importance of America's birthday."We just put up a new flag this week to make sure we had a good looking flag," Bates said. "It means a whole lot to me because I have seen countries that were not free or have the freedom and independence we have here in the nation."At just 18 years of age, Bates officially joined the Armed Forces and it wasn't long before he was battling on the front lines in the Korean Peninsula, where he survived gunshot wounds and even grenade blasts."I was a rifleman, private first class while I was in Korea," he said. "It was just a horrible war."Today, his living room is filled with mementos of his service with memorable stories to go along with each one."In February of 1951, I was shot in the leg," Bates said. "When I got over that, I went back in the front lines. I was wounded again on May 31, 1951, then I went back in and there in one day in 1951 - June the 10th when I was wounded by shrapnel in the head."His courageous efforts during this time earned him the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Upon returning home, Bates was named the Postmaster in Clanton before receiving an even higher honor."I was appointed postmaster by Lyndon Johnson," he said.His time in the military and with the postal administration allowed him the opportunity to do something he never imagined he would do -- meet the President of the United States. And he didn't meet just one. He met three."I never dreamed I'd get inside the Oval Office!" Bates said. "I talked about the postal service and [Johnson] talked about my Marine Corps. time back in Korea. Just real jovial. A down to earth person." In just a few weeks, he'll have a new addition to his expansive collection of military decorations when he attends a service in Washington, D.C., where he and other veterans will be honored for their service in the Korean War. "That was the first war fought by the United Nations troops in a war - that was right after World War II," Bates said. "We accomplished a lot. We stopped the communist aggression."Bate's story is serves as a humble reminder on this Fourth of July holiday that freedom certainly isn't free."Independence Day means a whole lot to me because I know what it means to see other countries that are not free as we are," Bates said.While in D.C., Sgt. Bates will attend a marine parade and a celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice called the "Heroes Remembered."
ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, Alabama offers news, sports, and weather reporting for the surrounding communities including Tuscaloosa, Anniston, Cullman, Gadsden, Talladega, Sylacauga, Carbon Hill, Jasper, Hoover, Bessemer, Vestavia Hills, Alabaster, Trussville and Homewood.