Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


June 26, 2008

United Daughters of Confederacy honors veterans

A part of the patriotic endeavors of the United Daughters of Confederacy includes the bestowal of military awards for veterans of service to the United States in various conflicts and wartime service. The Captain Sally Tompkins UDC honored two military veterans in June. These military awards are given to the descendants of those who served the Confederate States honorably, and have served the U.S. military honorably.

As a surprise to her, Lyda Speck of Livingston, Overton County, was presented with the World War II Cross of Military Service for her wartime service during the grave marking for her great-grandfather, William Jason Ramsey, Private Company “H”, 25th Tennessee Infantry, CSA, buried in Corinth Church of Christ Cemetery in Sparta, TN. Speck, now aged 94, enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and began the adventure of a lifetime. Among the strange questions she was asked after her enlistment was if she was willing to be sent overseas, stay there for the duration of the war and never be able to contact her family. She also had to agree that she would not seek Officers Candidate School, which would have given her a higher rank. She agreed to those terms. The FBI sent agents to Livingston who secretly checked out her family and her character.

Though she was never sent overseas, these questions were important because she was among a select group of women that were to be sent to Los Alamos, NM, to work with Dr. Oppenheimer and other scientists on the Manhattan Project. Speck may have been chosen because she already had a degree in chemistry, but at Los Alamos she was to become a physicist working on nuclear reactions. It seems strange to think that a woman from Livingston would end up working with materials that were sent to New Mexico from Oak Ridge, TN, so close to her home. Speck was promoted to the rank of sergeant and, among other honors, she earned the Meritorious Unit Medal and the WAAC Service Ribbon. When she returned home after the war, she resumed her job at the postal service and retired from the post office in Livingston, TN, after 33 years.

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