A day for honor

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Covington County residents turned out in strong numbers to show their support for veterans at Wednesday morning’s Veterans Day parade and program.

Guest speaker Lt. Col. John Thompson said Veterans Day is meant to “thank the men and women who have served so honorably in war and peace times,” and talked about three men he believes are “shining examples of what has made our country so great.”

Thompson spoke of George Marshall, whose career paralleled the increase of U.S. power and who served the country for more than 50 years, in the military and later as secretary of state. Marshall orchestrated the expansion of U.S. troops into the largest military in the world in World War II.

Thompson also talked about Bert Banks, a Montgomery native who served in World War II and authored “Back From the Living Dead” about his experiences as a POW and Bataan Death March survivor. Banks became a broadcast executive, forming the Alabama Football Network, and was a state politician with an interest in veterans’ legislation.

He also talked about Andalusia’s John Givhan, for whom Thompson was named. Thompson’s father was Givhan’s co-pilot when Givhan lost his leg in Vietnam and Givhan credits the elder Thompson with saving his life.

Thompson said Givhan has helped him to make the most of his military calling, and credited his namesake with making his recent tour of duty in Iraq easier by creating the adopt a deployed family program. Many Andalusians joined Givhan in the effort, Thompson said, adding that he couldn’t count “the pound cakes, coffee and hard candies” that members of his squadron received during that time.

“John Givhan felt the need to give back,” Thompson said.

Marching bands from Andalusia, Opp and Straughn were part of the parade and program, as were a Ft. Rucker firing team and color guard.

Among the guests in the reviewing stands were county commissioners, the county’s mayors and council members, House Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia), State Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba), and U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.).