03/17/04 — Order of Long Leaf Pine will be awarded to four

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Order of Long Leaf Pine will be awarded to four

By Gene Price
Published in News on March 17, 2004 2:04 PM

North Carolina's highest honor -- the Order of the Long Leaf Pine -- will be presented Saturday, March 27, to four people who have called Wayne County home.

Three of the presentations will be made posthumously, accepted by widows of the recipients.

The ceremony will be part of Goldsboro Elks Lodge 139's second Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet. The program will begin with a 6 p.m. reception at the lodge home at 105 E. Chestnut St.

Honored will be sheriff's Capt. Jerry Best who was struck by a car and killed while removing a dead deer from a roadway at night, and two Seymour Johnson Air Force Base officers, Lt. Col. William Watkins and Capt. Eric Das, who died when their F-15 was lost in combat in Iraq.

On hand to personally accept his award will be R.C. Gregory, Wayne County's sole survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in World War II.

Also to be recognized will be a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Wesley Grey Singleton was aboard the U.S.S. Phoenix, which escaped damage during the attack. He will be presented a flag that has flown over the memorial above the U.S.S. Arizona, which was among the ships sunk in the raid.

Featured speaker for the occasion will be I. Beverly Lake Jr., chief justice of North Carolina.

Dennis Lewis, chairman of the project, said money raised from the banquet will go toward purchasing bullet-proof vests for three local law enforcement dogs and for a rifle for the sheriff's SWAT team.

Tickets for the banquet are available from Steve Harlowe at the Elk's Lodge at 735-3131 and Lewis at 242-9620. Tickets are $25 and cover the reception and steak dinner.