Vietnam vets honored at 50th anniversary

Published 2:53 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

American Idol finalist Jessica Meuse from Slapout, Ala., sang the National Anthem and Traveling Soldier at Vietnam 50th celebration. (Contributed)

American Idol finalist Jessica Meuse from Slapout, Ala., sang the National Anthem and Traveling Soldier at Vietnam 50th celebration. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Rain did not stop the Vietnam 50th anniversary and commemoration ride on Saturday, Nov. 7.

The day of thanks began at the Alabama National Cemetery, motorcade traveled through Montevallo, Calera, Alabaster and ended at Harley Davidson’s Heart of Dixie building in Pelham.

Programs were held at both the cemetery and HOD.

The event was an official Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program, established by Congress in 2012, and sponsored by the American Legion Matthew Blount Post 555, David Lindsay Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, and Exchange Club of Shelby County.

The purpose of the well-attended event was to “thank and honor Veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor families of these veterans.”

Post 555 First Vice Commander Kenneth Paschal was event chair assisted by National Cemetery Executive Director Quincy Whitehead.

The Exchange Club of Shelby County sponsored a program to Shelby County students to make patriotic artwork to be given as gifts to the vets.

President-Elect Coni Fievet-Crawford was art project chair and over 400 paintings were made.

DAR David Lindsay Chapter Daughter and Veterans Chair Neville Peacock submitted the event for official “SITRIP” status and received presidential proclamations and lapel pins which were given to all Vietnam veterans.

A piece of personal artwork, DAR Certificate of Appreciation, and American Legion lapel pin completed the gifts to each veteran.

The program at the cemetery included invocation and benediction by Deacon Bill Alexiou, music by Averett sisters and Robert Robinson Jr., wreath laying by Vietnam nurse Joyce Franklin and Purple Heart recipient Roosevelt McCray.

The featured speaker was Army Veteran and Trauma Chaplain Michael Raymo.

The event concluded with TAPS played by Bugler Across America James Quakenbush.

The commemorative motorcycle ride was led by Post 555 Ride Captain Sgt. David Lee followed by Army veteran and Pelham Mayor Gary Waters.

Montevallo, Calera, Alabaster, Pelham police, fire and Shelby County Sheriff departments paved the way for motorcycles and cars.

Pelham firemen hung a U.S. flag on the overpass on I-65 and at HOD that greeted the motorcade. Guests waved flags and welcomed the riders into HOD.

Veteran Gene Rowley, APH Radio station manager, was emcee at the program at HOD.

Senior Pastor Jerry McClain gave the invocation and benediction.

The colors were presented by Bessemer Civil Air Patrol and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Cub Scout Pack 404 Cliff Windham.

American Idol finalist Jessica Meuse sang the National Anthem and “Traveling Soldier.”

DAR David Lindsay Chapter Regent Phoebe Donald Robinson explained the Vietnam Veteran Commemorative Flag and Fievet-Crawford explained the art program.

All veterans and family members received gifts given out by scouts.

The event closed with bagpiper Jeff Jones playing Amazing Grace and Robert Robinson Jr. singing a patriotic song.

Lunch was served donated by McAlister’s Deli, California Pizza and desserts by David Lindsay Chapter and Cake Art by Cynthia Bertolone.