Community pays tribute to those who served

Published 3:37 am Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Foundation will raise awareness of service

Memorial Day is about love and remembering, Circuit Judge Ben Bowden said Monday.

Bowden, who is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, was the guest speaker for Andalusia’s annual Memorial Day service. He also announced the formation of a new foundation dedicated to recognizing the contributions of area veterans, and raising awareness of the price of freedom.

Bowden recalled attending services for fallen comrades while deployed to Iraq in 2008.

“I was a lawyer and an officer, so I was pretty much kept out of harm’s way,” he said.

“I did make it a point while I was deployed to Iraq to attend any memorial service that I could get to,” he said. “It seemed particularly appropriate to gather together to honor fallen comrades in those circumstances. While all of those services are etched in my memory, one in particular stands out.

“It was an Army aviation ceremony to honor the crew of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the Texas National Guard that crashed in country on its way to join our unit. The Army has a tradition of doing a roll call and then maintaining a moment of silence after each fallen hero’s name is called. To hear those names called and to wait for them to answer, when you know they won’t, was, to say the least, emotional.”

“Those we gather to honor today, those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice, gave their lives out of love,” Bowden said. “Love of country, love of freedom, love of their fellow soldier. There is no other way you can describe these sacrifices than to cast it in its rightful terms – “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Bowden said Memorial Day is also about remembering.

“It is about imprinting on our collective conscious in each generation the sacrifices of those who died in the service of their country. I don’t know of anyone who works harder at helping us remember than my friend, John Vick.”

It was Vick’s efforts to take a group of World War II veterans to a service at Eglin Air Force Base several years ago that led to a broader discussion.

Bowden said there is a sense of urgency that fewer and fewer people can remember when the United States was attached and its young men and women were called to defend their nation.  Thus, he said, was born the Covington Veterans Foundation.

The group’s first act is the donation of a watercolor titled “A Hero Comes Home,” to the City of Andalusia. Vick conceived and commissioned the painting, which was done by Roger Powell. It depicts the flag-draped casket of a fallen soldier returning home in a railroad car, and is symbolic of the soldiers, sailors and Marines who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

“The future freedom of our nation may depend upon another group of young men and women who will be asked to make that same sacrifice,” Bowden said. “Our city, our state and our nation must do its part to make sure its young people understand that ‘freedom isn’t free.’ The United States of America, with all its faults and failures, is till the ‘bastion of freedom’ to the world. With God’s grace and the thankfulness of a grateful nation, may we ever by worthy of that honor.”

The foundation also donated a framed tribute composed by Vick, “Lost Voices” which is to hang near the painting.