GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City and county dignitaries, veterans from all branches of the military and citizens of the local community were all on hand for the fourth iteration of the Vietnam Veterans’ …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City and county dignitaries, veterans from all branches of the military and citizens of the local community were all on hand for the fourth iteration of the Vietnam Veterans’ Recognition ceremony Saturday at the TAPS Memorial in Green Cove Springs.
“This was really deserving to our veterans,” said Green Cove councilwoman Connie Butler. “It’s always an honor.”
The ceremony was about an hour long and included the unveiling of a new monument dedicated to the vision impaired who lost sight during combat. The memorial features an inscription on the top in braille.
There also was a stirring rendition of “Old Glory” performed by Ret. Command Master Chief Mack Ellis, which brought tears to several guests. Simultaneously, members of the Clay County Public Safety Honor Guard unfolded, held aloft and refolded the U.S. Flag.
The Wiggins family was honored, and former School Board Commissioner Ann Wiggins spoke for her deceased husband, who served a 28-year career in the U.S. Air Force before dying at the age of 92.
“It was very moving and I’m very grateful thankful that they recognized him,” said Wiggins. “Even though they used his name today, it really was to honor all Vietnam Veterans.”
The keynote speaker was Ret. Col. William G. Byrns, who served a distinguished career as an Air Force pilot with thousands of flight hours and 100s of combat missions.
While serving in Vietnam, Byrns was shot down with only 10 days remaining until his date estimated return from overseas service. He was held as a prisoner of war at the famed “Hanoi Hilton” for 10 months before being released.
“My ‘Freedom Day’ is actually tomorrow, 48 years ago [March 28, 1973],” Byrns said. “It’s when I got on the airplane from the airport in North Vietnam. It means a lot because it’s honoring the veterans of Clay county and their sacrifices. They sacrificed a lot and their families sacrificed a lot.”
The recognition ceremony was canceled last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.