John Brandon Givhan, 1st Lieutenant, US Army helicopter pilot, Vietnam War (injured, medically retired) – The Andalusia Star-News


Author’s Note: The conclusion to the Wesley E. Courson story will be released next week. This week’s column is devoted to 1st. Lieutenant John B. Givhan, Vietnam veteran and great American patriot, died this week.

The Andalusian community, our state and the nation suffered a great loss this week with the passing of a great patriot, John Brandon Givhan.

John was best known for his continued and tireless service to his fellow veterans. He was also a lawyer, breeder, author, radio talk show host, father, husband and grandfather, a wounded veteran of the Vietnam War and a beloved citizen of the city of Andalusia, Alabama. More than that, he was a good Christian.

1st Lieutenant John B. Givhan with his H-21c “Shawnee” helicopter in Vietnam.

This author first met John Givhan 63 years ago, when we were freshmen at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. [soon to become Auburn University in 1960]. We were neighbors on South College Street for four years. We were both ROTC students, he in the military and the author in the navy. After our graduation in 1962, we joined our respective departments. John Givhan became a helicopter pilot and was deployed to Vietnam. We lost sight of each other for a few years, but I heard that John was injured in 1964.

Details of John’s service and the near-death fight to save his life can be found in a book he published in 2000, “Rice and cotton: South Vietnam and South Alabama. The book is a great read and a testament to John’s gratitude to those who saved his life. John also published another book in 2017 with Judy Cooper titled, “Flowers of old Cahaba”.

After being medically retired from the military, John was on the staff of Congressman Glenn Andrews from 1965 to 1966. In 1966 John met the love of his life, Martha Elizabeth James, and they were married in December. of the same year. They moved to Montgomery in 1967 where John was Director of Residence Services for South Central Bell until 1970. John entered the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1970 and received his Juris Doctorate in 1972 .

It was by luck for Andalusia that lawyer Harold Albritton asked John Givhan to join the Albrittons and Rankin law firm in 1972. He was appointed partner in 1976 and the firm became Albrittons and Givhan. John remained a partner until his retirement in 1996.

John Givhan has served his community and veterans in many ways. From 2008 to 2012, he broadcast a daily show on the local WAAO radio station titled “The Patriot’s Point of View”.

Several hundred military men and women deployed from Alabama have received “care”Packages generated by Givhan’s “Adopt a deployed family” newsletter sent to over a thousand recipients. He started the newsletter in 2006 and continued for many years. When our local National Guard was deployed, he opened an account at a local shipping office to help pay shipping costs to encourage people to send packages to our troops. This continued long after our troops returned. Through the newsletter, John was able to seek help from many of the area’s veterans in need – medical bills, utility bills, house payments – if John Givhan learned of a veteran’s need. , he was trying to help.

In 2011, John was awarded the “James Prize”, from the group of Methodist men from the first United Methodist Church in Andalusia. This prestigious award is given nationally to those who are “Speech makers and not just a listener” [James 1:22].

John Givhan received the Distinguished Service Award of the Covington Veterans Foundation in 2019. He was also named an honorary member of that organization in 2021.

Take off early in the morning in April 1964 from the airstrip of Tay Ninh [Vietnam], 1st Lt. John B. Givhan, 120th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion. Givhan flies his H-21c “Shawnee” helicopter.

In 2012, John was the first person to join the Volunteer Veterans program for the local Comfort Care Hospice office. In addition to several veteran pinouts, John has provided statewide continuing education for PTSD for Comfort Care workers and chaplains. Through Comfort Care, John helped establish the “Southern Alabama Veterans Awareness Support Group,” which is a support group for serving members, veterans and their families and the interested general public. Vickie C. Wacaster, local director of Comfort Care, said about John’s service: “I cannot begin to tell you all of the lives Mr. Givhan has touched through his involvement and leadership in our Veterans Support Group. John has made calls and written letters for our veterans and has helped them navigate the VA medical system. He helped find housing and jobs for our recently demobilized Afghan veterans… He was there for them – he was there for all of us.

The Mayor of Andalusia, Earl V. Johnson, first met John Givhan when they were both students at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. “It was clear to me at the time that John was a leader and had probably always been a leader… he was two years ahead of me in law school. but he took the time to help me with any questions I had… Eventually he and Martha and Sylvia and I became very close friends. We were happy when we heard that he and Martha would be coming to Andalusia where John would practice law with the Albritton law firm…. John was a kind and gentle person who rarely spoke of the terrible injury he suffered in Vietnam… When we returned to Andalucia Sylvia and I picked up John and Martha where we left off… John became a leader in the community, especially in supporting veterans and active duty members of the military… John was a leader in civic life in Andalucia and in the Covington County Bar Association. His service to our nation has been exemplary and he will be missed by our community. “

Circuit Judge Benjamin Bowden said this about John Givhan, “I first worked with John in the firm before joining the Air Force. He was an inspiration to me as a lawyer and military officer… John was one of the main reasons I wanted to come back to Andalusia after leaving active service. I wanted to work with him and learn from him. He was a real hero in my mind.

The author believes that the near-death experience he suffered in Vietnam was a driving force in his life, spurred by his gratitude to those who helped him survive. He and his brothers returning from Vietnam were never greeted home as worthy American fighters who had “Simply answered the call of their country”. John Givhan sought to remedy this by becoming a fierce advocate for the veterans.

John returned from Vietnam, missing a leg but determined to live a life of service to others. He has flown over 250 combat missions in Vietnam and received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Aviator Badge and Air Medal with nine bunches of oak leaves. Alabama Governor George C. Wallace recognized John in 1965 for his extraordinary service to the state of Alabama and to the nation.

John Givhan has made it his life goal to help fellow Veterans and make them feel valued. Sometimes it seemed like he carried the burden of “the whole Vietnam experience ” on his shoulders. Even so, he was not bitter but determined to help others. This hard-hearted, benevolent-minded man carried the scar of Vietnam with him. These deep feelings were exemplified in this recollection of Harold Albritton, former legal partner of John Givhan and currently Federal District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama on senior status. [with reduced workload], “I remember the day the United States pulled out of Vietnam. The television was full of shots of helicopters flying from the roof of our embassy, ​​picking up Americans as the North Vietnamese stormed in. I heard John cry heartily in his office.

An army helicopter pilot with nerves of steel and the heart of a suffering patriot – that was John Givhan. He leaves behind a grateful community and a loving family: his wife, Martha; a son John Anderson [Candy]; an Endsley girl [Givhan] Bolen; grandchildren John Bruce Bolen, James Calvin Watkins and Shelby Lynn Watkins; her brother-in-law Sonny [Linda] James; niece Dr Christy James Guepet; nephew, Frank James; a little niece and a little nephew.

– John Vicky

{The author thanks the many friends and family of John Givhan who shared this tribute]


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