MADISON COUNTY Ala. — The Madison Country Military Heritage Committee honors past military members who have been awarded medals dating back to the start of the country. Each year veterans are inducted into the Madison County Hall Of Heroes. This year’s inductees include the following:
Captain Carl Gamble, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Carl Gamble served in the Air Force in Vietnam and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. The decorated veteran and his wife now live in North Carolina. He has written a memoir about his life titled, “My Blue Yonder.”
“Well, when I was a young kid growing up, right here in Madison, Alabama. While picking cotton, I would see the airplanes, the fighters [and] the F-84s flyover. I told my mom that’s what I would like to do. I would like to become a pilot.”
“From pilot training, I went to Vietnam.”
“They hit us with a .50 caliber round from a machine gun. So we’re trying to fly back with half a wing, an engine shut down and it’s on fire. The engines only like nine feet from where I’m sitting. And all the time I’m thinking ‘Wow! I’m about to lose my life, I’m about to die in a place I don’t want to be anyway.’ As I’m thinking that, I’m saying ‘Yeah I can get this airplane back, I can land it. We weren’t out of the airplane no more than a minute, minute and a half, and the auxiliary fuel tanks exploded.”
“Ended up flying in 244 combat missions in Vietnam. And I was ready to get out, cause I was tired of getting shot at. Well with the airlines, you have hijacking. I was hijacked to Havana, Cuba. And he said ‘Captain I assure you this is not a hoax, this is not a joke. If you land this airplane in Miami we’ll blow it up.’ So that’s what we did, we ended up taking him to Havana.”
“There are pilots who have been hijacked, there are pilots who have landed burning airplanes. I’m potentially the first pilot to do both.”
Staff Sergeant David McLawhorn, U.S. Army (Ret.)
David McLawhorn joined the military to pay for school and ended up surviving a helicopter crash. The combat veteran earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart from the mission that nearly took his life.
“I’m not a hero. We all do our job. I mean everybody on the helicopter that day is a hero to me.”
“By the time I got to Afghanistan, I was a flight engineer on a Chinook. So it was really awesome. We’d land in the Korengal outpost. We’re delivering food water; it was everything they needed to live up there.
“There’s a cliff this way and a cliff this way, and then there’s a base right there. Well, this day there’s somebody sitting up here with a big gun, and then right next to him there’s a guy with an RPG. And so he shot our helicopter with an RPG, went through the left main fuel tank. There’s literally no time to be afraid in the situation. So yeah, we all did our job and we flew across the valley, and we crash landed in the side of a hill next to another outpost across the valley. I broke my back in about 27 places.
“I broke a bunch of teeth, I had broke some ribs, I was in a pretty bad way for a while. But I ended up naming my son after one of our pilots, because after we all rallied and got together and took a head count and started going back to the base. They threw me in a stretcher and the whole way there John Taylor, one of our pilots, ‘You look so good man.’ and I was like ‘I’ve seen this movie before, he doesn’t make it.’ And everybody started laughing at me and had to put me down.”
“I guess the best memory that I have from the Army is all of the people. I mean it sounds corny to say it, you’re a band of brothers.”
Colonel Galen Rosher, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Galen Rosher has contributed to Army aviation for over 40 years. The decorated combat veteran served in Korea, Germany, Vietnam and around the U.S. He received the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, 40 air medals, the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation.
“I was probably ordained to become a military guy. I played Army from the times I was four, until I retired from the Army. It looked like a Marine, but I don’t want the Marines think it was. I’m an Army guy.”
“In the Army for 26 years and eight months. I had great assignments, traveled all over the world. And “Good Vibrations” was my helicopter. I flew the same helicopter for seven months when I was in Vietnam.”
“The bad guys were down there. You’re supposed to fire at them so, I took one pass and I wasn’t close enough so I came back for a second pass and I got closer. And I got shot up pretty bad. I came back for a third pass and weapons wouldn’t fire and fuel was running out, the controls wouldn’t work, so we crashed about a quarter mile from the enemy. And I can remember that because my back hurts so bad all the time. I was very proud to be where I was. I was a military man from the start to the finish.”
“My wife Isla, we’ve been married 60 years, and we have nine grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and life is good.”
Chief Warrant Officer Ed Trexler, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Ed Trexler served in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Stars, Vietnam Service Medals among other military awards.
“Hero is a term that to me was never a definable message. It’s hard for me to put my arms around that particular word.”
“I was just about 20 years old. I joined April 18th of 1969. Well, I got drafted. As far as I was concerned it was part of growing up. That was myself with my aircraft, and that was Easy Rider. 435 was the tail number. You never forget those things. 435 did not make it home. It crashed three weeks after I left Vietnam. They crashed into a river.”
“Ended up with the 173rd assault helicopter company. And they called us and said one of our aircraft was shot down, we need you to go pick them up. We started to receive fire, and the pilots lost control of the cyclic of the aircraft. And we slid into the bamboo trees, we slid up this mountain with a helicopter.”
“The door gunners on the right, I’m on the left, just returning fire. Not that you could see anybody, but we wanted to keep their heads down so they wouldn’t shoot at us. All we could hear behind us was rustling of brush and everything. So we knew that someone was coming for us. Nobody was gonna come in and get us cause they thought we were all killed in the crash. The information got back and forth that we were on the ground and so was the other crew. So they came in. We got everybody loaded up, I got the pilot loaded up that was injured, we got him in the aircraft, got everybody in the aircraft.”
“We were always taught that the mission was number one, but to complete the mission you have to first take care of yourself and your fellow soldiers. My family supported me through the whole thing. They’re happy so it’s a wonderful life.”
Colonel Sandy Weand, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Sandy Weand received two awards for valor during his deployment, the Air Medal with “V” Device. He was born and raised in Florida. He and his wife Carol have three children, he now serves as a Madison County reserve deputy in the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
“A great man once said he wasn’t a hero, but he was in the company of heroes. I don’t see myself as the hero. but I certainly served with a lot of heroes.”
“I served in the army for almost 30 years. Started right out of college. Decided at an early age that I wanted to fly.”
“When I was in Vietnam I was assigned to B Troop 3/17th Air Cav. We came across a base camp where they had set up a large supply dump and a housing area for the troops. So we had a fairly fierce battle that raged for there for a day or two, and during that operation is when I received the two awards. After I did fly combat they moved me to maintenance, and I always tried to work hand in hand with my men. If you look at the population of the United States, and the population that’s military, it’s in the point zero digits. So a very small percentage of us were allowed the opportunity to serve our nation.”
“Being in the military, having the service career I had, being able to retire, was a blessing from God and that’s the best way to characterize it.