City of Andalusia honors heroes at annual Veterans POW/MIA Ceremony

Published 4:40 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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Editor’s Note: Photos from the Veterans Day parade can be found on page 2 of the Wednesday, Nov. 15, print edition.

Area veterans joined together on Veterans Day for the 20th Annual Covington County Veterans POW/MIA Ceremony held at the Covington County Veterans Memorial Park behind the Andalusia City Hall.

During the event, all veterans in attendance were recognized as well as Gold Star families. City Clerk John Thompson welcomed those who joined for the event, which was held immediately after the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce’s Veterans Day parade. The Andalusia High School Band performed the National Anthem and Mayor Earl Johnson gave the invocation. Brian Foshee led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Guest speaker at the event was CW5 Bryant Fontenot, an Army aviator with more than 40 years of service.

Fontenot, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2021 after 40 years of service, held the rank of CW5 for 21 years, and was a warrant officer and standardization instructor pilot at the time of his retirement.

A native of Southern Louisiana, CW5 Fontenot joined the Army very soon after his high school graduation. He served in a wide range of key positions, including principal positions in the Republic of Panama, the U.S. – Mexico border, Jordan, Bahrain, Israel, Iraq, the state level of the Alabama National Guard, the National Guard Bureau of Arlington Virginia, Forts Novosel, Bragg, Lewis, and Hood, and endured five combat deployments. His military career culminated as the Command Chief Warrant Officer of Division West of the First US Army, Fort Hood Texas.

His deployments and combat assignments include:

• 1998 – Operation Southern Watch living with the 26th Kuwaiti Land Forces Brigade on the southern Iraqi border, opposing the Iraqi 51 DIV.

• 1999 – Operation Northern Watch on and off of Failaka Island, Kuwait Ahmadi, coordinating with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit USMC and 5th US Special Forces Group.

• 2011 – Special Operations Task Force – Central, Anbar Province Iraq, training the 2nd Iraqi Special Operations Forces. 

• 2012 – Special Operations Task Force Central pinned against Syrian border Al Qaim.

• 2012 – Separate mission set this time as Special Operations Task Force – NORTH, extreme northern Iraq working to keep both Iraq and Turkey from smashing the Kurds into last century.

CW5 Fontenot has also served twice on the US/Mexico Border supporting U.S. interests of border security.

“Let’s not today recall tragedy, but rather honor the men and women who have served and with whom I’ve been honored to stand shoulder to shoulder. From my earliest recollection all I wanted to be was a soldier. I have come to realize that our citizenry do not know how we, the veterans, feel about you on this day. If you never spent a moment in the military, I want to ask you, to what would we have come back for?,” Fontenot said.

“There is a spirit in a veteran, a bond to this nation and her people that transcends in a veteran above all other relationships in our lives. How else can we turn our backs on our wives, husbands, families time and time again to board that plane that will take us to the place where the bad people are. Thank you to every wife and husband who had the back of their service member,” he said.

Mayor Earl Johnson recognized groups, including the Covington Veterans Foundation, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce, for their efforts in organizing Veterans Day events.

“We are blessed to live in a patriotic community where so many organizations work together to show thanks to our veterans for their service,” Johnson said.

Circuit Judge and CVF member Ben Bowden introduced Fontenot as the guest speaker.

Following the speakers, three wreaths were placed in honor of veterans, Prisoners of War. and for those who are Missing in Action. Participating in the wreath ceremony were:

• Daniel Cox, U.S. Army Captain, Infantry Officer (2005-11), Navy 2000, Meritorious Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal.

• Michael Dennis Plantz, U.S. Marine Corps, Lance Corporal, 1967-70, Vietnamese Service Medal, 2 Stars, Vietnamese Campaign Medal.

• John Wayne Hartin, U.S. Army, SP4, Light Weapons Infantryman, 1967-69, Vietnam, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, two Purple Hearts.

Dillon Worley, AHS band director, performed “Taps” to conclude the ceremony.

Andalusia Youth Ambassadors participated in assisting veterans from the parade to the Veterans Memorial and provided programs.