On June 23, a group interested in hearing local veterans speak of their experiences gathered at the Havana History and Heritage Society Museum.
The first to speak was the event’s moderator, Michael Hawkins, who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school and was assigned to the Air Force Medical Training School in Montgomery, Alabama.
He served as a medic in England for four years before being sent to Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. Hawkins and his wife Terry live in the Providence area in Gadsden County.
Jack Hanbury joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1958, serving on the Cutter Unimak WAVP 379 and as an ET striker. He and his wife moved to Havana in 1990. Hanbury worked at Hancock Antiques until 1995, restoring furniture for multiple shops until 2015.
John ‘Blackie’ Blackburn served in the U.S. Army as a door gunner. He is currently the manager at the Lake Jackson CVS.
David Smithwick is the past commander of the American Legion Post 84 in Gadsden County. He was drafted into the U. S. Army in May, 1968 and trained as a dental assistant. Smithwick rose through the ranks during his career, retiring as the Command Sergeant Major at Walter Reed Medical Center. Command Sgt. Major is the highest enlisted rank in the Army. While in the service, Smithwick obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Smithwick received numerous commendations while serving, including the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Vietnam Service Medal.
James Brennan joined the U.S. Navy in 1967 and served until 1974. During his service, he was stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville (Florida), at the NATO Facility in Stuttgart, Germany and on board the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. After being discharged, Brennan attended the University of North Florida, obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Brennan later worked for the State of Florida for 21 years as a database manager. Brennan is a former commander of American Legion Post 84 and is currently the Post Adjutant and a commander of the Florida Department’s statewide American Legion office. Brennan is retired and lives with his family in Havana.
By Sandi Beare