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Mineral Wells, TX
May 11, 2011

[PRINTABLE VERSION - PDF]

National Vietnam War Museum represented in Georgia

The National Vietnam War Museum will be represented in Demorest, Georgia at the unprecedented dedication of a new middle school named for Hilliard Almond Wilbanks, killed in action in 1967. United States Air Force Capt. Wilbanks, then serving as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Southeast Asia, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless actions to protect a South Vietnamese Ranger battalion from a devastating ambush by North Vietnamese forces. No school in Habersham County has ever been directly named for an individual. Speaking about this break with tradition, the school board declared, "It was the right thing to do."

The dedication will feature a formal ceremony and open house on August 13, 2011 from 10 AM – 2 PM. Stations will be set up onsite so that attendees can learn about Capt. Wilbanks, his life, and his sacrifice. The NVNWM was honored to be asked to participate by granting permission to screen a video that we produced for our “Tribute: Expressions of Loss and Remembrance by Vietnam Veterans” exhibit (Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 2009) as part of the day’s activities. The video presents the story of Hilliard’s final hours with music by songwriter and fellow FAC Jonathan Myer and air to ground footage and stills contributed by the Wilbanks family and others. The museum is also contributing a copy of the complete video, which features additional song elegies by Myer and Dick Jonas, to the school to be incorporated into their annual Veterans Day programs.

Military and civilian representation at the Dedication Day event will be notable. The International Birddog Association has committed to a flyby, weather permitting. The 17th Air Support Operations Squadron from Ft. Benning, Georgia, will be in attendance and a jet flyby is also in the works.

Long after the opening day excitement has lulled, Wilbanks’ legacy will continue to inspire generations of students. Those who will attend when the school opens this September chose the school mascot. The students were given 3 choices: Patriots, Big Cats, or Cavaliers. Aptly, they selected the “Patriots.” Plans for a fantastic mural for the school gym are already underway. In it Hilliard will be represented flying his small unarmed 0-1E through the clouds. To the left side of his plane a Revolutionary soldier will hold the American flag. To its right, a contemporary female soldier will be shown saluting. Underneath the plane, the artist will include “Wilbanks Patriots” on a wing insignia. A display area will also be designated in the school to house some of Hilliard’s memorabilia—tangible reminders of a father, son, and soldier who lived, and died, with rare and uncompromising dedication to duty.

As the National Vietnam War Museum we are gracious for the opportunity to extend our support and education efforts to other parts of our nation and honored to play a small role in the success of this upcoming event. Friends and members of the museum are welcome to attend. For information contact: Patricia Wilbanks DeWitt, 1402 Stratford Hall Court, Grayson, GA 30017 or http://hilliardawilbanksfoundation.com.

Article submitted by NVNWM volunteer Colette Lemmon

The National Vietnam War Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in the state of Texas.

Edward T. "Edd" Luttenberger
Communications Director
The National Vietnam War Museum

[PRINTABLE VERSION - PDF]

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