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Thursday, April 8, 2010

A “Band of Brothers” Meet at the Chipola River

Navy Frog Men hold special recognition award ceremony for an aging brother, Jackson County resident Richard Hinson.

By Sid Riley

The pristine Chipola River bank setting at the new, Hinson Park which is now part of Marianna’s Chipola Greenway system, on a beautiful spring afternoon was the venue last Friday as a group of local residents and visiting military heroes prepared to honor Marianna Resident, Richard Hinson. The group of North Florida veterans of the Navy Underwater Demolition Unit known as the “Navy Seals”, also known initially as the “Frogmen”, gathered to honor Hinson who was one of the earliest participants in this elite program which was begun during the latter years of WW II.

One of the earliest and most notable missions of this organization occurred on the famed Normandy Beaches during the “D Day” invasion when the Allies regained the first foothold as they began the invasion of Europe which led to the eventual surrender of the German Army. The “frogmen” planted underwater explosives on the barriers which had been built to prevent the landing craft from reaching the beaches. As the invasion began, these were detonated to clear a path for the incoming Allied troops, thus saving many lives.

Since that beginning, this organization filled with the “Navy’s best” has gained a renowned reputation as they participated in all major military conflicts of our nation since their beginning. To be a “Seal”, means you are among our nations best trained, bravest, and most revered heroes. Dick Hinson was part of this special “band of brothers”.

Hinson, who is currently in ill health, was hospitalized the evening before the ceremony, and was thus unable to attend. However, Kelly Riley, of A & K Productions was on scene preparing a CD of the entire event. This was later taken to Dick and his wife of sixty-one years, Ann, so they did get to see the ceremony and hear the remarks of tribute made about Hinson.

The award was initially planned to be presented by Bay County’s State Representative Jimmy Patronis (R), along with Bill Bruhmuller, President of the Northwest Florida chapter of the UDT-SEAL organization. Patronis was to read the inscription on the plaque of tribute along with the contents of a personal letter of appreciation from him to Hinson. However, due to the requirements created from the current session of the legislature, he was unable to attend. Thus, Bruhmuller and SEAL Commander, Aubry Davis, made the presentation to the gathered Hinson family, including Hinson’s sister, Beth Quick of Marianna, Hinson’s sons, Richard, Robert, and Mark and the two grandsons, Rob and Michael.

Marianna Mayor, Paul Donofro, Jr. also spoke in Hinson’s honor. Hinson has been a longtime business man in Marianna, having founded Hinson Insurance Agency. He spoke of Hinson’s love of the Chipola River, and his many services to our community during his long career. He then told of how Dick had approached the city with the opportunity to purchase the family property for a future park, thus assuring its preservation in a natural condition, and it being available for the enjoyment of future generations of Jackson County citizens. The State purchased the property and now leases the land to the City for $300 per year on a 100 year lease.

After the award presentation, the boys amused the crowd by telling several antinodes about the senior Hinson while he was mentoring them during their childhoods. Hinson has always been an avowed lover of nature, a stern taskmaster, and a man of the highest standards of morality and ethics. While teaching these characteristics to his sons and grandsons, many memorable events occurred, which helped shape their character…and provided rich memories which they will forever treasure.

“So it be respectfully proclaimed that Richard “Dick” Hinson is recognized for his valuable contributions to his country and to the well-being of Jackson County”, the tribute aptly stated.

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