For Sergeant Starling Edward Powers patriotism was more than just a word. It was the way he lived his life.
Powers served in the military for over 33 years with stints in both the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army 101st Airborne where he was voted soldier of the year in the 101st Airborne in 1963 and runner-up in 1964.
He served one tour of duty in Korea and two tours of duty in Vietnam. Powers also served as a Green Beret and Special Forces soldier during his military career, winning numerous medals and commendations.
Later he co-founded VFW Post 3167 in Williamsburg and the JROTC Cadet Command at Whitley County High School.
His youngest son, Travis Powers, said that people will probably most remember his father for one of the mottos that he lived by, which was “God, country, family.”
“His motivating factor for everything was my mom –that is easy to see,” Travis said. “He was a strong family man.”
Powers, who was best known as Sergeant or Sarge, died Sunday at the age of 80 at the Continued Care Hospital in Corbin.
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Croley Funeral Home Chapel.
Travis Powers said that one of the more interesting stories about his father was how he got the nickname, “Lucky.”
It stemmed from a 1961 injury he sustained while making a parachute jump from a plane in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
During jump training, Powers jumped from a C-119 plane but his parachute became tangled in the tail section of the plane. He cut himself loose and managed to engage his reserve parachute just prior to landing.
Powers suffered multiple cuts and bruises, lost three teeth, broke his right leg, dislocated his left shoulder and fractured seven ribs.
When asked how after receiving so many injuries he could be called Lucky, an old newspaper account noted that Powers leaned back in his chair chuckled, “easy when you consider the alternative.”
Scott Powers, Powers oldest son, told another story of how his father’s unit got blown up once by mortar fire.
All the bodies were laid out with ponchos covering them. The soldiers decided to smoke before placing the bodies in body bags.
“Dad raised up and they thought he had raised from the dead,” Scott said.
Although he was the only one to survive, his father did “get a laugh out of that one,” Scott added.
During his time in Special Forces, Scott noted that his father was sent on a lot of missions sometimes not even knowing what countries he was entering.
“He did a lot and saw a lot. A lot of it he wouldn’t talk about,” Scott added.
Powers influence in life went beyond the battlefield though.
At one time, he was the number one recruiter in the entire military recruiting 527 enlisted contracts in one year.
“In 1996, after he had cancer and had his prostate removed, he some how managed to pass the army PT test and physical and go back on active duty to teach ROTC for 10 years,” Scott noted.
Scott said something that a lot of people probably didn’t realize about his father was that his “bark was bigger than his bite.”
“He had a heart of gold but would make you think he was the meanest man who walked the earth,” Scott said laughing.
“He was a very caring person, who would give you the shirt off his back,” Travis Powers added. “On the lighter side he really did care about people. He was a whole lot easier on the grand kids than he was with the kids let me tell you that. The grand kids led him around by the nose. He was a very strong family man that was for certain.”
Powers has also played a large role in honoring other former veterans.
He was also instrumental in getting both monuments placed in front of the Whitley County Courthouse. He was also responsible for the pictures of veterans that are displayed at Williamsburg Wal-Mart.
Powers was a member of several organizations including: Williamsburg Shriners, Masonic Lodge #490 F & AM, a Kentucky Admiral, a Kentucky Colonel, Disabled American Veterans and the Kentucky Educators Association among other organizations.
Visitation for Powers will be after 6 p.m. Friday at Croley Funeral Home. A Masonic Service will be held at 8 p.m. Friday at the Williamsburg Masonic Lodge #490 F & AM.
Rev. Jerome McCullah and Major Scott Powers (retired) will officiate Powers funeral Saturday.
He will be laid to rest in the Smith Family Cemetery. Military honors will be conducted by the Whitley County JROTC.
For additional obituary information, see page B-5 of this week’s edition of the News Journal.