KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 800 will celebrate Veterans Day on Thursday, Nov. 11, by participating in the city’s annual parade, seeing two of its members honored at a military luncheon and listening to a lecture by a Tennessee veteran who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for nearly six years.
A flight of cadets and a color guard from Detachment 800 will march in Knoxville’s 85th annual Veteran’s Day parade, which steps off at 10:45 a.m. on Gay Street.
After that, two AFROTC members will be honored at the East Tennessee Military Affairs Council’s Annual Awards and Recognition Luncheon. Tech. Sgt. Lisa M. Mitchell will receive the Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the Year award and Cadet Thomas David Winter, a junior in aerospace engineering, will receive the Col. Jack Westbrook Scholarship.
Mitchell manages the paperwork for 115 cadets within Detachment 800 and also manages the uniform program, which has been recognized by both the AFROTC Southeast Region Commander and the AFROTC Commander as one of the best in the nation. She has been chosen to train incoming NCOs for all 144 detachments in the U.S.
Winter heads the physical training program for cadets in Detachment 800. He is also the Arnold Air Society Area V commander. He has successfully completed Army Air Assault School in Fort Campbell, Ky., and wears the U.S. Army Air Assault Badge on his uniform. He was also recognized as a Distinguished Graduate upon completing field training in the summer of 2010.
Wrapping up the day’s events, members of the Air Force and Army ROTC will hear retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Norman C. Gaddis talk about his Vietnam experiences and subsequent career.
A native of Dandridge, Gaddis graduated from UT in 1947.
He enlisted in October 1942 and was recalled to active duty in February 1949. As a fighter pilot, he earned more than 4,300 flying hours. On May 12, 1967, while serving on his 72nd combat mission in Vietnam, his F-4 Phantom was shot down and he was captured by the North Vietnamese. At the time, he was a colonel.
Gaddis was placed in the Hanoi Hilton, where he was the ranking officer. When offered release, Gaddis refused to leave because he was the ranking officer. He was finally released on March 4, 1973, after being in captivity for 2,124 days.
Gaddis, along with former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, were the two senior U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
Gaddis — who went on to serve as deputy director of operations in the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C. — was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, Air Force Outstanding Award Ribbon and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross.
Gaddis received the Silver Star twice. He received one for flying against anti-aircraft fire, surface-to-air missiles and enemy aircraft on a dangerous escort mission the day he was shot down. He received the other for resisting mental and physical torture and beatings from the enemy while in captivity.
C O N T A C T :
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)