For some, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For others, it was a reminder of a war fought long ago and the memories that came with it.
Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy University, was among the hundreds who took a ride in a historic UH-H1 Huey helicopter Saturday during the Friends of Army Aviation’s inaugural Armed Forces Day event at TROY’s Dothan Campus.
For Hawkins, a U.S. Marine who fought in Vietnam, the aircraft brought back a flood of memories and appreciation.
“What did Yogi Berra famously say? It’s déjà vu all over again,” Hawkins said. “This time, though, it was a lot more comfortable and fun. It was a great experience, and it let all of us appreciate the Friends of Army Aviation and what all the men and women of the United States military do for our country.”
Hawkins and other TROY dignitaries kicked off the event Saturday morning, followed by a day of taking visitors up in the Huey, along with other attractions such as a medical evacuation helicopter, a Vietnam-era museum and historic re-enactors.
“This is our inaugural event to recognize active duty armed forces personnel currently serving our nation,” said FOAA President John “Doc” Holladay. “We thought it would be neat to show our veterans our appreciation … for those who seldom get celebrated for what they do for this nation each day. It’s a very important thing for them to be recognized.”
From children to older individuals, a litany of people got to experience what Holladay called “the ride of a lifetime.”
Hawkins said it’s important for the University to continue its tradition of supporting the Armed Forces.
“That’s a big part of our culture,” he said. “TROY’s a little bit unique in that it’s a patriotic place. We know freedom isn’t free, and we want to do our part to support those people who are willing to go into harm’s way to preserve it.”
The event is expected to take place again next year.