Tag Archives: honor

Inaugural 9/11 Honor Walk Coming to Huntsville

2014 911 Walk Hsv

Still Serving Veterans, Soldier 1 Corporation, Turning Point Consultants LLC, Distinct Grace, Blue Star Veterans, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, have teamed up to bring Huntsville the inaugural “9/11 Honor Walk: Remember. Heal. Celebrate.” on Sep. 13, 2014 from noon to 5:00 p.m. at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The event is free with preregistration and will bring the community together in order to remember and honor all those affected by the tragic events of Sep. 11, 2001.

On September 11th, our world changed in an instant. We were handed a stunning tragedy the reverberations of which still echo in our lives today. With enormous dedication and courage First Responders rushed into burning towers and into the Pentagon. Passengers took down a commercial jet to save others. Others too, bore an incredibly disproportionate share of our country’s response to the attacks. Our military and their families, with enormous heroism, absorbed the consequences for us all with costs we cannot imagine. On Sep. 13, 2014 we honor them

The Honor Walk is no ordinary walk – it’s a labyrinth walk that is modest yet reflective. The 60×60 labyrinth is a simple path leading in a circular fashion to a center and then back out again. It will be located under the Path Finder Space Shuttle with the Color Guard for a one-of –a –kind first experience in North Alabama to honor the destiny of our times through those who paid for our future. There are no tricks or traps. As in life, there are many twists and turns and this ancient pattern can make visible and concrete the interior journey of those who walk it. Following the walk will be the celebration that will feature music from local bands JED Eye, Distinct Grace, and The Reps.

Tickets to the event are free with preregistration and include access to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s museum. Attendants without tickets will be required to pay museum entry or register at the door in order to access the event. Visit rocketcenter.com/HonorWalk to register for tickets.


After Korean War Veteran Pilot Dies, Family Donates Belongings to Local Vets in Need

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on May 23, 2014 at 11:22 AM, updated May 25, 2014 at 2:40 PM

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – In 1968, Lt. Col. Andy Andrews was sent to Vietnam.

Lt. Col. Robert Joseph Michael “Andy” Andrews with a P-51 Mustang. Andrews was a U.S. Air Force pilot who flew combat missions in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. (Submitted)

An Air Force fighter pilot since receiving his silver wings in 1945 at age 19, Andrews had just finished training on the F-4 Phantom II fighter jet – the backbone of the U.S. Air Force.

“The Phantom was the love of his life,” recalled Andrews’ son Brian. “He loved that plane.”

The Vietnam War was at its peak, and Andrews was stationed in Thailand with the 8thTactical Fighter Wing. During his tour of duty, he flew 102 missions, providing close air support to ground troops.

The F-4 Phantom is a two-seater jet, with the pilot in front (that was Andrews) and a radar intercept officer behind. Andrews jokingly called whoever was in the plane with him “Gib,” short for “guy in back.”

For the majority of the missions Andrews flew in Vietnam, “Gib” was his buddy Matt Henrikson. The two had a close bond, said Brian Andrews, the unshakeable kind of friendship forged in the thick of combat.

Henrikson, who lives now in Virginia, will make the trip next week to say his last goodbyes to his friend.

On Friday, Andrews will be buried with full military honors at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

A decorated veteran of both the Vietnam and Korean Wars, Andrews died unexpectedly last summer in Huntsville at the age of 87. His body was cremated, according to his wishes, and his family held services both in Huntsville – where his son and daughter-in-law live – and in Colorado Springs, where he spent the bulk of his retirement after his 31-year career in the Air Force.

Brian and his wife Lisa speak fondly and reverently about Brian’s father, and the life he led. Even though his death was sudden, they worked to find a way to pass on his legacy through the donation of his possessions to local veterans in need through the Huntsville-based Still Serving Veterans organization.

WWII and Korea

Andy Andrews was 17 in 1943 when one of his neighborhood buddies – a few years older – came home on leave during World War II, telling stories about flying fighter planes. Andy knew immediately he wanted to fly them, too.

He went to the local recruiting office to sign up, but the recruiters sent him home because he wasn’t 18. When he did turn 18 in November 1944, they called him back and sent him to basic training.

At 19 he graduated from the Army Air Force pilot training program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in October 1945, just a few months after the war ended.

Every member of Andrews’ graduating class was dismissed from service and sent home…except Andrews. He stayed in the service and was assigned to accompany coffins bearing the remains of servicemen as they were sent home to their families.

In 1949, Andrews was one of the youngest to be sent to jet pilot school. Shortly afterward he was shipped overseas to the Korean War, where he flew an F-86 Sabre jet in 61 missions before contracting malaria and being evacuated from Korea.

At some point soon after he began losing his hair – possibly due to his illness. Being a no-nonsense kind of person, he decided to just shave it all off. He got married, and had a son – Brian Andrews – in the 1950s.

My dad’s the kind of guy who wanted to have all the information that was available because he planned everything to the last detail.

A decorated career

Andrews was sent for a year-long tour to Vietnam from 1968-1969. After he returned, he was assigned to positions with the Air Defense Command and NORAD. He had reached the highest rank he could achieve in the Air Force without a college degree, and retired from the Air Force after serving 31 years.

Among his 30 awards and decorations are three Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight Air Medals, the Bronze Star, a Joint Services Commendation Medal, two Meritorious Service Medals and four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.

It’s unusual for an Air Force pilot to fly nearly 30 years, said Brian. But Andy Andrews loved flying – so much so that he was flying combat missions in Vietnam at the age of 43.

A lasting legacy

Brian and his wife Lisa moved to Huntsville eight years ago, and spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince Andy to move here so they could better care for him. After decades spent flying, Andrews had lung problems and needed to use an oxygen tank in the thin Colorado air. Eventually, he agreed to come to Huntsville. The couple meticulously planned an apartment for him.

“My dad’s the kind of guy who wanted to have all the information that was available because he planned everything to the last detail,” said Brian. “He used to call the apartment manager frequently, and they got to be really good friends. He was friends with the maintenance supervisor before he moved here.”

Late last summer, Andy moved into his new apartment. The Andrews looked forward to introducing him to the strong military retiree community in Huntsville.

But one day later, tragedy struck. The Andrews came to Andy’s new apartment, bringing his favorite chicken pot pie for dinner. Andy had trouble unlocking the door for them, and fell back, breaking his hip.

He was rushed to the hospital, and underwent hip replacement surgery. A few days after surgery his health began declining as he had difficulty breathing.  He died Aug. 3.

Many friends, family and neighbors came out for his memorial services in Huntsville at the Church of the Nativity, Episcopal and in Colorado Springs.

Afterward, Brian and Lisa Andrews had a brand-new apartment, completely furnished, but empty.

“We could have just had an estate sale, but Lisa had the idea that it would be great if maybe there was a veteran who could use some of my dad’s things,” said Brian. “We wanted them to go to a good home, to someone who would appreciate them.”

The couple talked with a neighbor who worked for Still Serving Veterans, a Huntsville-based nonprofit organization that helps veterans and their families transition to post-military life through services like job coaching, VA claims assistance and connections to community resources.

SSV arranged to help the Andrews donate most of Andy Andrews’ belongings to local veterans in need. Some of his memorabilia was donated to SSV for display in the office.

“I think he would be very pleased,” said Brian of his dad. “He was a strong supporter of the military. Even as an officer, he really identified with the younger airmen who might need help getting their feet off the ground.”

The Andrews waited purposefully for spring to bury Andy. He qualified for burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, but the Andrews chose the Black Hills National Cemetery because Lisa’s father is also buried there, and they have family in the area.

“Dad was a very generous guy,” said Brian Andrews. “I think he would be very pleased with the way this has been wrapped up, and all the people who have benefited from his legacy.”

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Tell Your Story & Become Part of History

June 10-12 an organization called StoryCorps will be coming to Still Serving Veteran’s office to record the stories of post 9/11 Service Members, Veterans, and their families through a program called “The Military Voice Initiative.” This initiative seeks to honor the diverse and unique realities of our military communities by providing a space for participants to share their experiences, and the opportunity to have their voices archived at the Library of Congress for future generations.
The recording would be like a conversation. Each participant brings in someone they would like to speak with (usually this will be a friend, family member, colleague, etc), and they will have a conversation for 40 minutes. They are free to talk about whatever they would like during this time. There will be one staff facilitator in the room with the participants, mainly to check for recording sound quality and to ask clarifying questions if needed, but the facilitator will not be interviewing either of them.  At the end of their conversation, each pair will receive a CD copy and, with their permission, a copy will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Here are some examples of the end result. These videos are about 2-3 minutes long and were clipped from the 40 minute original interview:

Sergeant Marilyn Gonzalez and her daughter, Specialist Jessica Pedraza, remember deploying together to Iraq in 2010: http://storycorps.org/listen/marilyn-gonzalez-and-jessica-pedraza/

First Lieutenant Thomas Nelson and his wife, Lauren, talk about their first year of marriage: http://storycorps.org/listen/thomas-and-lauren-nelson/

Sergeant Papsy Lemus tells her daughter Griselda about going off to war in Iraq: http://storycorps.org/listen/papsy-lemus-and-her-daughter-griselda/

The StoryCorps Dates are June 10-12th, one-hour blocks from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  If you are interested in telling your story and becoming a piece of history, contact Leslee at 256-883-7035, ext 113 or via lesleeg@stillservingveterans.org.

Athens WWII Veterans to Receive Over-due Awards

On January 17th at 3:00pm, the Alabama Veterans Museum will be holding a Ceremony in the Events Center (across from the museum) in Athens. Refreshments following in the Powers Rm at the Veterans Museum. During the ceremony, four WWII Veterans from Athens will be receiving the Legion of Honor.

The Legion of Honor is France’s most distinguished decoration and it can be bestowed to recognize the special contribution and act of bravery while fighting for the liberation of our country during WWII. The decision to honor World War II combatants applies only to living veterans who served on French territory and in French territorial waters and airspace from 1944-1945. Those selected are appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor

On Jan 17th, Denis Barbet, Consul General of France will be there at the Alabama Veterans Museum in Athens to bestow this award on four of our local WWII heroes. Receiving the award will be:


Cal Bonner – Army WWII


Theo Calvin – Army WWII


William P. (Jack) Hunter – Army Air Corps WWII


Clifford Wilford – Army WWII

Please come to witness these genuine American Heroes receive this prestigious honor.

January 17th, 2013, 3:00.
Alabama Veterans Museum
100 W. Pryor St
Athens, AL

Get directions here.

Contact Sandy Thompson, Director at 256-771-7578 for more information.

Wear Blue: Run to Remember

Wear Blue: Run to Remember serves as a living memorial to the service and sacrifice of our Fallen Warriors.  The group walks/runs together once or twice a month, and participate in running events around the community to raise awareness and to “remember” our Fallen SoldiersAt each meeting, they begin with a moment of silence, then those that would like, call out the name of the Soldier‘s they are running for.

There are approximately 250 Surviving Family Members of over 100 Fallen Soldiers who reside in the 11 counties surrounding Redstone Arsenal.  It is their desire to run in honor of each of these Soldiers and in support of their Families left behind.  Some members run in honor of Fallen Soldiers they have once served with or have known.

They are now recruiting participants whether you want to run, walk, or just support the cause!  If you are interested please call or email Charity Watral at (256) 542-1208charity@usaeod.net.  Also, to purchase a shirt or other Wear Blue: Run to Remember merchandise go to http://www.wearblueshop.org/.

If you do not wish to participate by running they are looking for volunteers to help with holding flags along the course that honor a Fallen Soldier.  They are also looking for volunteers to help with a Wear Blue: Run to Remember” water station.