Vietnam veterans honored at Alabama National Cemetery

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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MONTEVALLO – Under the banner of the stars and stripes, war veterans, family members and citizens gathered under the pavilion at committal shelter three at the Alabama National Cemetery for a Vietnam War veterans commemoration ceremony on Friday, March 29 at 10 a.m.

Hosted by the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery, the Vietnam War Veterans Commemoration Ceremony showcased the stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and recognized the veterans in attendance.

As the son of Vietnam army veteran Eldon L. Woodie, First Vice Chairman of the Support Committee  for Alabama National Cemetery Eldon Woodie shared that the cemetery was honored to host the veterans and their loved ones for this commemoration.

“Welcome to all of our Vietnam veterans—welcome home,” Eldon Woodie said. “I really mean this. Alabama, this part of the country, appreciates your service and we are proud of our patriots.”

As members of the Patriot Guard Riders and the American Legion Riders surrounded the gathering with the nation’s flag, the ceremony began with a flyover of Vietnam era aircrafts courtesy of the Patriot Flyers. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Army ROTC presented the colors before University of Montevallo music student Madison Smith sang the national anthem.

The master of ceremonies for the commemoration was Zach Nichols, the son of John Nichols who served two tours in Vietnam with the United States Air Force and Pam Nichols, former director of Honor Flight Birmingham.

“Due to the political climate at the time, U.S. military returning home from the war, were often treated with disrespect and certainly were not given a hero’s welcome,” Nichols said. “In recent years, our country has come a long way in showing Vietnam veterans the respect that they deserve.”

In 2017, the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act was signed into law, declaring that March 29 is Vietnam War Veterans Day.

“The first Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony at the Alabama National Cemetery was held in 2019,” Nichols said. “Since then, it has become a traditional part of the ceremony for the support committee to include Vietnam veterans and their stories as part of the ceremony.”

One such story was that of Bob Barefield.

After making the decision to go on active duty, Barefield served from 1969-1970, including the invasion of Cambodia. While serving as platoon leader with Alpha Company, second battalion, eighth calvary in March of 1970, Barefield was wounded when his company fought its way to rescue Charlie Company, which was surrounded by a North Vietnamese Army regiment.

Barefield’s widow, Nancy Fairfield, placed the memorial wreath during the ceremony. She was escorted by Peyton Ligon. Ligon served two tours of duty in Vietnam as rifle platoon leader and company commander of the 4/503rd Airborne Infantry Battalion and the 4/31st infantry.

Nichols also shared the stories of three service members killed in action—Pfc. James Edward Isaac Jr., Pfc. Lorenzo Sewell and Sgt. 1st Class William LaGrone. In addition, the crowd recognized honored guests and four members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Birmingham Chapter 2202—Larry Groves of the U.S. Marines, Charles Johnson of the U.S. Army, Robert Jones of the U.S. Army and Charles Jones of the U.S. Army.

“Let us take a moment to remember all of the brave Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have suffered and those who continue to suffer from the silent wounds of war, our wounded warriors as well as those who bravely served and continue to serve our nation,” Nichols said. “It is incumbent upon us to keep their legacy alive.”

Those interested in more information about the Support Committee of the Alabama National Cemetery can visit