LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Moore County’s American Legion Post 192 welcomed Nashville recording artist and Grand Ole Opry member Jan Howard to Lynchburg on Monday as the Legion held its 23rd annual Memorial Day service.
Howard, 86, spoke to a large crowd gathered on the Lynchburg square just outside the courthouse. She had two sons, Jimmy and Carter, serve active military duty in Vietnam, and the oldest, Jimmy, lost his life in the war.
Howard penned a song, her most personal, called “My Son” in 1968. It began as a letter to her son Jimmy, who was already in Vietnam. Shortly after the song’s release, Jimmy was killed. The song, which she sang on Monday, went on to become a Top 15 country hit in 1969.
Howard, who often speaks with veterans and veterans groups, spoke Monday of how her sons arrived in Vietnam — Jimmy was drafted, while Carter volunteered — and how Carter served as an escort bringing Jimmy’s body back to American soil.
She left immediately following the ceremony to attend the Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Cemetery in Madison, Tenn.
Leo Bechard, an Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force, gave Monday’s invocation, while Meredith Burton, whose grandfather was a World War II vet, sang the National Anthem.
American Legion Post 192 Commander Billy H. Thomas, who served in Vietnam in the Army, introduced Ms. Howard.
Lynchburg’s Jable Dean, who was one of the first five American soldiers to see action in Vietnam in the early 1950s, presented the wreath at the courthouse memorial site. Billy Glen Bobo, who was in the Army in Vietnam raised the American Flag, while Moore County High School student Billy Powell played “Taps.”
Vietnam veteran Phil Gatto, who suffered life threatening injuries and is a double amputee because of those injuries in Vietnam gave the closing prayer.
Monday’s service was one of the largest that the American Legion Post 192 has hosted despite overcast skies and threatening weather. The weather held off long enough for the 45-minute service to be concluded, with only a few raindrops following, ironically, while Howard sang her a cappella rendition of “My Son.”