C. Josh Givens and Amber Givens with Tim Evans’ 1953 Willys M38A1 1/4 Ton in Madisonville on Sunday
As I write this column, my fingers are sore, with hangnails and a bit of blood around the nails.
My legs are aching a bit, especially the left one. My feet are also hurting, but please do not take any of this as complaining.
These aches and pains and such are to be expected in middle age, but the cause of these discomforts came from a weekend honoring veterans and supporting Veterans Day parades across three west Kentucky communities over Saturday and Sunday.
As I have told you before, I am a history nut and a collector of military items, such as uniforms, documents, photographs, insignia and equipment. I sometimes get a bit embarrassed to show people just how much this historic clutter takes up significant space in our home.
But, with all of this collecting and an interest in reenacting, it gives me an opportunity to share my love of the stories of soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen, especially around Veterans Day.
I have a close friend, Tim Evans, who is also a collector, though his collecting interest is in the area of military vehicles, and he has quite a “motor pool.”
Among his restored vehicles are a 1953 Willys M38A1 1/4 Ton “Jeep,” a 1942 Case SI Airborne Tractor, and a 1942 Dodge WC 3/4 Ton.
Tim is a retired colonel and commanded a Combat Support Hospital in the U.S. Army Reserves. His career is in pharmacy, and he has worked at University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital for nearly 25 years.
Due to COVID and all of the disruptions of the past 18 to 20 months, much of the opportunity to military vehicle collectors and reenactors to enjoy each other’s company and participate in events went away; sadly, many of these events will never return.
But as we seem to come out on the other side of the pandemic, many of the parades have shown back up on the calendar. This past weekend was the first opportunity for many of us to get back into the hobby of sharing our love of history.
A few weeks prior, Tim and I began to plan our “mission” of getting his vehicles out and participating in some Veterans Day activities. We settled on the Bowling Green parade on Saturday morning, the Morgantown parade on Saturday afternoon, and the Madisonville parade on Sunday afternoon.
Moving military vehicles around, especially historical vehicles, is not an easy task. As with any antique, it takes a lot of work in caring and maintaining the items. And when remembering all military vehicles were made by the lowest bidder, there’s just going to be issues with equipment not working correctly, leaks and the “gremlins” which are drawn to military conveyances.
The Willys made the trip to Bowling Green on a trailer, but not until the tires were aired up from two mysterious slow leaks, giving us a disrupted start to the weekend. Following the parade, we loaded back up, tied the truck down the best we could, and headed back to Morgantown to mess around with vehicles stored there. The Case tractor – Tim’s coolest vehicle, in my view – was no problem at all as the model is reliable and trustworthy. Getting the Dodge WC started was another issue.
If you are working around anything military, expect to get your hands greasy, bust a couple of knuckles and, yes, blood is probably going to be shed. Solid steel is unforgiving on human bones and flesh.
After charging the battery for a bit and more than a few squirts of starting fluid, the Dodge finally fired up, though a lack of adequate braking would keep the WC out of the Morgantown parade.
Tim and I hooked up an airborne dump trailer to the Case; Tim drove the tractor, while I was operating the Willys as Tim’s wife and son, Cathy and Kyle, rode along as my passengers.
The thing about driving a manual shift vehicle in a parade, it is going to wear you out – the stop-and-go will be tough on your leg and tough on the clutch. As well, you have to keep an eye on the “candy kids,” assuring everyone makes it home safe.
Madisonville on Sunday was wonderful. Both days were beautiful, but the crowd really turned out for “the largest Veterans parade in Kentucky.” Amber went along on Sunday, so I walked part of the route in my 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, impression, and rode on the hood and bumper for the rest.
Military vehicles and good historical impressions tend to get people’s attention, so it gave us a great opportunity to play our roles and ham it up a bit with the crowd. The kids really enjoy the interactions with “Army guys.”
Certainly, the conversations with veterans and their families are the best part of attending a Veterans Day event. Today, I encourage you to attend the VFW Post 5186 observance at 11 a.m., at Hawesville Baptist Church, and the Hancock County High School program Friday at 1:45 p.m.
If you can’t make either of the events, please remember a veteran in your life and reach out to them on this day we honor uniformed service to our nation.
• • •
C. Josh Givens is a reporter with the Hancock Clarion. He can be reached at (270) 927-6945 or by email at email@example.com