GALLERY — A Night of Remembrance: Andalusia celebrates arrival of Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, Lee Greenwood

Published 1:30 pm Friday, July 29, 2022

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The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall arrived in Andalusia Wednesday, leading into a week of remembrance, highlighted by an opening ceremony and Lee Greenwood concert Thursday night.

The traveling wall initially arrived at the Covington County Track Facility where it met with the Andalusia Police Department, the Wiregrass Patriot Guard Riders, and a helicopter provided by the Friends of Army Aviation in Ozark to be escorted to its final destination at the Covington Veterans Memorial behind Andalusia City Hall.

Once on the grounds, those involved with the wall received help from employees with the City of Andalusia and other community volunteers to begin erecting the structure, which was completed Wednesday afternoon.

John “Top” Kammerer, a Desert Storm veteran and Wiregrass Patriot Guard Riders Captain, said it was an honor to provide the escort for the memorial, which included at least 50 bikes.

“A mission request came in to us last week, asking if we would provide a motorcycle escort. We have riders from across the state and northwest Florida here. Today’s is what we call a ‘HOTH’ mission — Help on the Homefront,” Kammerer said.

The Riders are primarily focused on escorts for funerals for fallen warriors and first responders. “This is different from many of our missions because it is a happy time. So many other times it is more of a solemn experience.”

Kammerer said helping escort the wall into Andalusia has a special meaning for many in the group, who themselves are Vietnam veterans.

“It is a step in healing for so many of them. Every day, 22 of our brothers and sisters are killing themselves in this country because they can’t get the help they need,” he said.

The Patriot Guard Riders are based out of Enterprise.

Also participating in the escort was a helicopter escort provided by the Friends of Army Aviation. On Saturday, the group will offer 8-10 minute rides in a Vietnam-era UH-1H “Huey” helicopter. There is a cost of $70 per rider and will be located at Cooper Park’s Packer Field at 404 Snowden Drive.

On Thursday, the wall was officially opened with a ceremony on the grounds of the Covington Veterans Park. Master of Ceremony was USMC Master Gunnery Sgt. Brian Foshee (ret.). Prayer was provided by CVF Chaplain Terry Powell with remarks by Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson.

Foshee read the names of Covington County’s fallen Vietnam veterans, allowing their Gold Star families to stand and be recognized.

The colors were presented by AMVETS Post 23.

The ceremony concluded with a three-gun salute provided by the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 607 and the playing of “Taps” by Johnny Brewer.

The action then moved to the lawn of Springdale Estate for the final night of July Jamz. The Three Notch Ramblers performed as the opening act before Lee Greenwood took the stage to perform his many hits, including “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Greenwood’s performance was free to the public and was sponsored by CCB Bank.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is sponsored by the Covington Veterans Foundation and the City of Andalusia.

The Memorial Wall will be open 24 hours a day through Sunday at 5 p.m.