by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Craig Hammond, executive director of the Bluefield Union Mission, joined a long list of some of Bluefield’s most dedicated public servants — a list that includes his father, the late Dr. Allen A. Hammond — when members of Bluefield’s Riley-Vest Post No. 9, of the American Legion named him its 2013 Distinguished Citizenship Award recipient.
“Boy, what an honor,” Hammond said. “Especially when you look at that list of past award recipients. It really is an honor to be recognized by the American Legion.”
Hammond, 59, son of the late Allen and Mary Hammond, grew up in Chicago, graduated from Cook County Schools, and worked on the railroad before moving to Bluefield in 1977 where his father was serving as executive director of the Union Mission. He worked side-by-side with his father until Allen Hammond retired in 1998 and Craig Hammond was appointed executive director.
Craig’s brother, the Reverend Charles Hammond, director of Mission Ministries based in Welch and Post 9 Chaplain, introduced his brother as the 2013 distinguished citizen. He told a story of his demanding work on the railroad, where he was only required to open a bridge one time each shift, but also became emotional as he spoke about his brother’s service to the community.
Craig Hammond, a licensed minister who is pastor of the Matoaka Christian Church, also served as host of the popular “Radio Active” morning talk show on WHIS-AM 1440 radio. He said that it has been an exciting year with several developments including the radio show receiving top honors by the state broadcaster’s association, and added that: “The Bears beat the Packers. What else could you ask for?”
Hammond expressed his pride in the city’s future, and pointed out that the volunteers who are now working on the Depot District project along with the work of the previous city board and the efforts of the current city board will propel the city in a positive direction.
“Watch Bluefield,” Hammond said. “I think it’s going to take off again,” he said. “The time is short, but there’s so much good going on in the city.”
Frank Nicholson, West Virginia state commander of the American Legion, served as keynote speaker for the event. He pointed out that: “More than one a day,” American service men and women have committed suicide. “We are losing more service men and women by their own hands than by the hands of the enemy,” he said.
Nicholson stated a few things that veterans can do to help the new veterans. “It’s up to us,” he said.” The easiest and simplest way is to say thank you for your service. Remember the price that has been paid for our freedom.”
Brian G. Krabbe, Post No. 9 commander, read a letter from U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., praising Hammond for his efforts on behalf of the community. Krabbe also led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Post Chaplain Charles Hammond provided the invocation and closing prayers while James Hampton, accompanied by Donald Kensinger, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “God Bless America.”
John Fleming introduced Nicholson, Teresa Braithwaite, president of the American Legion Auxiliary introduced auxiliary members present and A.A. “Lon” Hopkins Jr. introduced the past post commanders.
Alvin Ascue, post adjutant/finance officer, read the list of past award recipients, while Hopkins sounded a bell for each deceased recipient on the list.
The auxiliary provided refreshments after the ceremony.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org