Experience to remember

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net
Longtime friends and University of Tennessee at Knoxville ROTC alumni Harvey Sproul and Ham Carey participated last month in the Volunteers’ homecoming football game festivities as part of the UT alumni color guard during a game against the Chattanooga Mocs, an experience they said was like no other.

Carey and Sproul performed in the high school and university ROTC programs as students because all males were required to participate at the time.

Memphis native Carey attended Central High School, where he served two years in the ROTC before going to the University of Tennessee for two years from September 1947 to June 1949. Carey said he joined the Naval Reserve to avoid the draft, and performed in the ROTC again during his senior year in college from September 1950 to June 1951. There, Carey served as drill sergeant and was given the nickname “Leather Lungs” because of his ability to yell “louder than anybody else.”

“I could holler louder than anybody else, so that’s a real important thing to be a drill sergeant,” Carey said. “In the next year, I was in the color guard. We didn’t go out on the football field, but we just did Army ROTC parades, and I was right proud of that.”

Carey eventually ended up on the color guard, although he said he doesn’t remember why.

“I don’t remember how I got on color guard, but I was very honored to be in it, and I enjoyed it,” Carey said. “Just wish we could have been out on the football field like everybody does it nowadays.”

Sproul participated in the Knoxville High School ROTC for three years before attending the University of Tennessee’s Air Force ROTC as a corporal from September 1951 to May 1953. Sproul said he was discharged from the program after two years due to sight issues, and he would later serve three years of active duty in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and 29 years of inactive duty in the Army Reserve, where he retired as a colonel.

“What happened to me was that I had vision problems,” Sproul said. “I wore glasses, and after you’d been there a couple years then they send you to decide whether or not they’re going to keep you for another two years to summer camp, and I went to summer camp, and they inspected (me). They didn’t inspect me much because I had wore glasses, and, therefore, they were looking for pilots at that time.”

Carey said the two became formally introduced to each other in 1961 at a Rotary Club meeting, after Sproul, just recently out of law school, joined the law firm of Dannel & Fowler in Lenoir City.

Sproul said his friendship with Carey is why he found himself on the field for that Oct. 11 afternoon football game at Neyland Stadium, despite having no previous experience in the color guard.

“We’ve been friends a long time, and he’s very civic-minded person, so I would tend to want to try to do whatever he might ask, but this was just an honor and an unusual event to be able to go out and be on the field with the band marching all around,” Sproul said.

Carey asked Sproul and two others he knew to be in the homecoming festivities because a friend informed him that the university ROTC staff sergeant was looking for alumni for the game. The four to attend were Carey, Sproul and Knoxville residents William Broome and Worth Campbell.

“It turned out Worth Campbell and Harvey were real good friends from the Knox High School days,” Carey said. “So I knew Bill Broome. Bill knew Worth. Worth knew Harvey. Harvey knew me. So, we went in kind of a circle of friends there.”

Sproul carried a flag while Carey carried a rifle. Carey said the “high point” of the experience was when the crowd cheered for them while they marched on the field.

Carey, who hadn’t done anything in the color guard since his college days, said the experience gave him “goosebumps.”

“When we marched back off the field ... the whole south end of the stadium stood up and were clapping and yelling and going on like as if we were — I don’t know exactly what they was — but they were proud of us for getting out there and doing it,” Sproul said.