Appling County native, James A. Kent, was drafted into the U.S. Army in January of 1968, to serve in the Vietnam War. During his time with the Army, Mr. Kent served in active combat from 1968-1969, experiencing combat in and around The Iron Triangle, Mitchell Rubber Plantation, Trang Bang, Hoc Mon Bridge, Cu Chi, Dau Tieng, and around the Cambodian Border.
Mr. Kent, like most Vietnam survivors, experienced many facets of war while there. Being ambushed while on patrol by tunnel rats, booby traps made by the VC, being pinned down in rice paddies taking fire, receiving sniper fire and incoming 81mm mortar attacks. Mr. Kent states that some of the most memorable times there, was upon entering Vietnam seeing rockets being fired, and getting on the flight to leave Vietnam. The Honor Flight of Coastal Ga and the city of Brunswick gave him the warmest welcome.
Mr. Kent’s time served in Vietnam was not received as a hero’s return back in the day. He remembers people treating soldiers disrespectfully like “the scum of the earth”. Once having been chased out of a funeral detail in Pensacola Fla by those disrespecting him and his companions for serving in the U.S. Army.
Prior to being drafted, Mr. Kent had hoped to go to college at Lincoln Business College. After his service was complete, Mr. Kent accomplished that goal, became a millwright, pipefitter, welder elect and worked at Rayonier for 44.5 years. Mr. Kent retired from Rayonier in 2014, and now enjoys volunteering with activities such as AARP, American Legion, Progressive Resource Center, 100 Black Men, American Cancer Society and his Masonic Lodge. Mr. Kent says that from the time he served his country, he’s learned respect, morals, honesty, good work ethics and to stand up and be a man. He wants every young person to understand that his service was not a solo act. “A lot of good men fought and died for the privileges that they take for granted every day”. He wishes that they could understand what we have here in the U.S. and how it’s the best country on Earth. Mr. Kent’s time with the U.S. Army taught him mental respect, endurance, to think positively, as well as map and blue print reading skills. Upon exiting the Army, Mr. Kent was a Recon Sgt, E5, and has been assigned Fort Benning, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Vietnam and Fort Rucker, Alabama as his duty stations.
Mr. Kent was flown to Washington, D.C., where he visited with fellow servicemen and visited the Memorial Wall. He was presented an American Flag from U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, stating that the flag was flown over the U.S. Capitol on April 11, 2016 in honor of James A Kent, in recognition of his military service to the United States and for his Coastal Georgia Honor Flight 2016. U.S. Senator David Perdue welcomed Mr. Kent to Washington and thanked Mr. Kent for his commitment and bravery. Congressman Earl L “Buddy” Carter expressed his gratitude to Mr. Kent saying “We will forever be indebted to you and all those who helped defend this great nation”. Cards and letters of encouragement were given to Mr. Kent for his Honor Flight to D.C. from friends, family and local Brunswick Elementary children.
Mr. Kent wishes to express his gratitude to the Honor Flight, stating “This was beyond words. There are no words that I can say, just, so much love for our fellow man and our country. I am so proud to be one of the few. Thank you for remembering the forgotten”.
About The Honor Flight Network Program:
The Honor Flight Network Program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and Retired Air Force Captain. Earl wanted to honor the veterans he had taken care of for the past 27 years. After retiring from the Air Force in 1998, Earl was hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs to work in a small clinic in Springfield, Ohio. In May of 2004, the World War II Memorial was finally completed and dedicated in Washington, D.C. and quickly became the topic of discussion among his World War II veteran patients.
Earl could tell that the majority of the veterans had given up all hope of ever visiting the memorial that was specifically created to honor their services as well as the services of their fellow comrades who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. That’s when Earl decided that there had to be a way to get these heroes to D.C. to see their memorial.
In addition to being a physician assistant, Earl was also a private pilot and a member of one of our nation’s largest and best aero clubs located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. And things started coming together.
Earl started asking for help from other pilots to make these dreams a reality. In January of 2005, Earl addressed about 150 members of the aero club during a safety meeting, outlining a volunteer program to fly veterans to their memorial. There were two major stipulations to his request. The first was that the veterans pay nothing. The entire aircraft rental ($600 to $1200 for the day) would have to be paid solely by the pilots. The second was that the pilots personally escort the veterans around D.C. for the entire day.
Eleven pilots who had never met his patients stepped up to volunteer and Honor Flight was born. The responses from both the veterans and the pilots were overwhelming. In 2006, commercial flights were exclusively used due to the number of veterans on the waiting list and adverse weather conditions which prohibited small aircraft from participating on a regular schedule.} *Copied from the Honor Flight Webpage.