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Remembering fallen: 1st Avn. Bde. celebrates 50 years of protecting nation

Robert Cooper, commander of Enterprise’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6683, and Col. Woodard B. Hopkins III, 1st Avn. Bde. commander, lay a wreath in honor of those lost in battle during the unit’s 50th anniversary celebration and remembrance at Veterans Park May 15. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Robert Cooper, commander of Enterprise’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6683, and Col. Woodard B. Hopkins III, 1st Avn. Bde. commander, lay a wreath in honor of those lost in battle during the unit’s 50th anniversary celebration and remembrance at Veterans Park May 15. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 20, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 20, 2016) -- Charged with training Aviation officers, warrant officers and Soldiers in various Aviation military occupational specialties, the “Golden Hawks” have had a long and important role in the history of Army Aviation.

That history and those who made it happen were looked back upon when the 1st Aviation Brigade celebrated its 50th anniversary during a memorial ceremony at Veterans Park May 15 as a means to pay tribute to those who have fought and sacrificed over the years to make the brigade and the Army what it is today.

“We observe this remembrance of our fallen members over the past 50 years who have died to ensure that we have freedom and live in peace,” said Robert Cooper, Army veteran and commander of Enterprise’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6683.

Throughout the observance weekend, the 1st Aviation Brigade hosted past and current Golden Hawks Soldiers and family members with events to promote fellowship and camaraderie, culminating with the memorial service.

“As we bring a close to a weekend of memories and fellowship, I want to say what an honor it has been for the 1st Aviation Brigade to host you this weekend for the 50th anniversary,” said Col. Woodard B. Hopkins III, 1st Avn. Bde commander. “The current generation takes extreme pride in your service – the original Golden Hawks – regardless of the group, battalion, company or detachment with which you served and when you served.”

Bishop Jerry Ogles, presiding bishop for the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide, spoke during the event. He said he was moved at the opportunity to address a group of men and women who have served their country with such distinction.

“The Holy scriptures say in Psalm 33:12 – ‘Blessed is the nation as God is the lord’ – and certainly our Lord has overseen and favored our arms in combat over the many decades and centuries since we’ve been a nation,” said the bishop. “He’s blessed us beyond measure, He’s blessed us with Soldiers who have been willing to lay down their lives for their country, and for their friends and for their neighbors and for their families.

“The 1st Aviation Brigade has led the fight for military technology, especially helicopter technology, in combat,” he continued. “They had a footprint that (was) bigger than anyone can measure in Vietnam.”

Ogles said that up until the Vietnam War, wars were fought two dimensionally, but the 1st Avn. Bde. added a third dimension – the vertical dimension. Logistics had always been land borne, but it became necessary to be able to fly in to places that were remote and inaccessible.

The brigade served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1973, and at its peak had over 4,000 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft and 24,000 Soldiers assigned to it, according to the brigade home page at www.rucker.army.mil/usaace/1ab/.

It was responsible for 40 percent of the Army’s helicopter assets and all of its fixed-wing assets, and flew more than 1.5 million hours throughout the war.

Throughout the conflict, the brigade suffered more than 5,000 combat casualties with more than 1,700 killed in action, said Ogles.

“When we look upon a great person’s tomb, we usually look and see the name of the person and the date and year of their birth, and the date and year of their death,” he said. “In between is a dash. Without the dash, there is no meaning to the name or to the two dates.

“The dash is what describes each of us – our lives, our commitment,” said the bishop. “The 1st Aviation Brigade has a heritage that was borne in the heat of combat in Vietnam.”

Ogles said the importance of keeping that heritage alive for future generations is paramount.

“Many of our young people of today are not taught the heritage of men and women who served the country – those who have died on foreign battlefields,” he said. “We need to instill in them an appreciation of what patriotism is all about – what commitment and sacrifice is all about. Someone needs to pick up the torch, and we must have a long line of patriots who are willing to take up the torch and to move it forward to wherever God leads us.”

This article was originally published at www.army.mil/article/168317

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