• 72°

Veterans Day activities will pay tribute to Vietnam era

At a recent Covington Veterans Foundation meeting, the group’s chaplain, Terry Powell, shared some reflections on his time in Vietnam.

Powell, who retired as the financial manager of Shaw and is serving his fifth term on the Andalusia City Council, was drafted to the Army, and was in Vietnam from January of 1971 until January for 1972.

“There were three things that helped people keep their sanity,” Powell said. “Letters from home; drugs, which a majority of the people did; and the third was music.”

The first time he heard Peter, Paul and Mary sing, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” he was on a plane to Richmond, Va., to be trained for service in Vietnam.

Powell recalled that he had a transistor radio, “but it wasn’t often we could get a station playing American music.” He and fellow soldiers also listened to music on a reel-to-reel player. He recalled many of the songs of the era and explained the context for soldiers.

Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” basically says “I’m here because my parents were not influential enough to keep me out,” he said. The Animals’ “Sky Pilot” is a chaplain talking to troops as they are about to go into combat, but the song ends with words to parents about their son who has been killed. Their “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” was not necessarily about the war, but was adopted as an anthem by soldiers who wanted to make it out of Vietnam and get home.

Glen Campbell’s “Galveston,” is about a soldier separated from his first love.

“It resonated with everybody who had a girlfriend back home,” Powell recalled. Porter Wagner’s “Green, Green Grass of Home,” reminded soldiers of home. Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” and Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” were among other favorites.

“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Powell asked, referring not only to the song title, but the conditions in Vietnam. “We would have monsoons for some three and a half to four months. The rain came down sideways. It went straight down and it went straight up. We played that song over and over.”

“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night was another favorite. “Our door gunman, that was his favorite song. They blasted it over the PA system while we were going out to battle.”

Powell’s point was that music was and is really, really important to Vietnam veterans. And music will be a large part of the events the Covington Veterans Foundation, the City of Andalusia, and the South Alabama Regional Airport have planned for November this year. Here’s a rundown of all that’s planned:

  • Through Friday, October 8, the Covington Veterans Foundation (CVF) will sell veterans tribute banners for display downtown. Banners sell for $100 each and once purchased are displayed each year at no additional charge. CVF partners with the City of Andalusia to display the banners. The banners will go up in early November and remain on display through the Veterans Day holiday.

Banners are being sold on the third floor of City Hall. For additional information, email covvets@gmail.com, or call Michele Gerlach at 334.428.1143.

  • On Sunday, November 7, the Covington Veterans Foundation will host its second Celebration of Heroes, a musical tribute program set for 2 p.m. at Andalusia High School. This year’s focus will be on the Vietnam era. Dr. Jack Hawkins, a Vietnam veteran and the chancellor of Troy University, will be the guest speaker.

Those who attended a similar program in 2019 will remember the musical tribute to the World War II era. CVF is proud to welcome back the Three Notch Ramblers (Scott Rodgers, Philllip McClung, Richard Moore, and Jeff Sellers); a community chorus; the Andalusia High School pep band; and the trio of Katie King, Olivia Simmons and Hannah Cross.

  • Immediately following that program, at about 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 7, CVF will host a reception in Andalusia City Hall to mark the opening of a historical display of veterans’ memorabilia, again with a heavy focus on the Vietnam era.
  • On Wednesday, November 10, at 10 a.m., the South Alabama Regional Airport will dedicate and rename its heliport of the late John B. Givhan. Givhan lost a leg, and nearly lost his life, as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He worked on many veterans causes and is responsible for getting the helicopter at the entrance to SARA.

The guest speaker will be Gen. Walter Givhan, who is John B.’s cousin. The commanding general from Ft. Rucker also will be present.

  • Also on that day, there will be a static display of Vietnam-era helicopters in cooperation with the Friends of Army Aviation. The group will have UH-1s at the entrance to the airport on Hwy. 84 from 9 a.m. until sunset around 5 p.m. Tickets for rides on those aircraft will go on sale next week at friendsofarmyaviation.org.
  • On Thursday, November 11, the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Veterans Day Parade at 9 a.m. Veterans from each era or their families are invited to ride on floats prepared for them. Other entries are welcomed. For additional information, call the Chamber at 334.222.2030, or email Executive Director Laura Wells at laura@andalusiachamber.com.
  • Immediately following the Veterans Day Parade, the City of Andalusia will host a Veterans Day service at the Covington Veterans Monument, located behind the Andalusia City Hall. Andalusia native Sam Nichols, a retired educator who served in Vietnam, will be the guest speaker.

Andalusia and Covington County have always done a great job of recognizing and paying tribute to veterans. It is the hope of the Covington Veterans Foundation that we can continue to promote interest in veterans affairs. We hope that you will join us for these special events. You can learn more about CVF from our brand new website launched this week, covvets.org. You can follow the activities of CVF on Facebook.

Michele Gerlach is the communications director for the City of Andalusia and the former publisher of The Star-News. She serves as secretary to the Covington Veterans Foundation Board. Email her at michele.gerlach@cityofandalusia.com.