MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – There’s a big patriotic display in one man’s yard in Madison County for Veterans Day. It’s located at 172 Chanel Drive.
The man who put it up is a Vietnam War Veteran and was aiming to stir patriotism, but — more importantly — encourage other veterans to seek out what they’ve earned.
In the pouring rain, red, white and blue decorations add color to the gray of the drizzly day in Hanson Hills. And they bring comfort to the owner, 78-year-old “Red” Allen.
“It just does my heart good,” he said from his living room, sitting in front of a warm fire. “When I’m putting that stuff up out there or taking it down, my mind is on that, it’s not on many thousand miles away from here or 50 or 60 years ago or something.”
Allen served two tours of duty in the army in Vietnam. The memories of those days still live vividly in his mind. The first time he left the warzone, he was in a Medi-Vac in 1968.
“I pulled a boo-boo and got kinda blowed away, got took out of action, sent home,” he said of a makeshift explosive left by the enemy which exploded and sent shrapnel, poison and nails into his leg and side.
The second time, he went home qualified for a Purple Heart award, after a U.S. military helicopter crashed in 1971.
“Went in and saved at least five people from the ruptured fuel tanks,” said Allen. “They were burning and all. We got out what we could. The fire wouldn’t let us go no further.” He looked down at his shaking hands.
More than 40 years later, the images still haunt him.
He suffers from agent orange and post traumatic stress disorder and is 100 percent disabled and receives financial compensation for such.
And he knows there are many other veterans with similar scars, who haven’t sought help.
That, he says, was the intent for his display: to send a message to other veterans.
“There is help out there for them,” said Allen. “But they’re not going to bring it to them, they have to go seek it.”
Retired now after 22 years in the Army, Allen says he sees too many veterans who struggle and try to hide from reality.
“Some of them want somebody to come and pull them out of that hole and that don’t happen that way,” he said. “They have to get up here and get out here and get started theirself. There’s so much help for them.”
He hopes the sight of the red, white, and blue will stir pride in Americans as well as American veterans.
Allen says he puts the display up on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Christmas.