Cullman honors fallen, unveils new monument

Dr. Michael Schendel, chair of the Veterans Memorial Park Board, speaks at the Cullman VFW’s Memorial Day program at Veterans Memorial Park at Sportsman Lake Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Tiffany McKoy)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman’s annual Memorial Day program was held Saturday, May 27, at Veterans Memorial Park at Sportsman Lake. It was a somber affair honoring the area’s fallen service members, with a special focus on Vietnam and aviation.

Fairview native and retired U.S. Army Col. Don Fallin served as the event’s master of ceremonies. He paid tribute to Cullman County’s Vietnam War fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice while onboard helicopters: Major Wayne Hyatt, CW2 Orman Phillips, Specialist Neil Jones, Major William Schmale and Lt. Col. William Phillips. Members of their families were in attendance and were presented with American flags.

A special part of Saturday’s event was the unveiling of the newest monument at the park. The Veterans Memorial Park Board raised funds and worked with the Cullman County Commission to purchase a Bell UH-1 Iroquois (nicknamed Huey), an iconic symbol of the Vietnam War. It was purchased from the Friends of Army Aviation.

“Today is our one day each year we pay tribute to those that gave their lives for our freedom,” Fallin said. “Today we dedicate the Vietnam Huey. It symbolizes the bond between the air crew member and the soldiers on the ground – that bond that the air crew members would be there in any capacity that the soldiers needed.”

Fallin explained that the Vietnam War is also known as America’s “Helicopter War,” which is why the Huey was chosen to be a part of the memorial.

The ceremony drew a large crowd. Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman; Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs; Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons; and Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman were among those in attendance.

“This is a humbling thing to see,” Cullman’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2214 Commander Brian Monk said. “We are honoring not just the veterans that are here, but also the ones who pay with their health for the price.”

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