Organizers of a ceremony rededicating the Screven County High School football stadium to its namesake, Maj. Charles L. Kelly, hope to honor Vietnam War veterans from throughout the area at the event preceding Saturday night's football game in Sylvania.
Kelly, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot with the 57th Medical Detachment, was killed in action in Vietnam on July 1, 1964, and the stadium was named for him the next year - 49 years ago.
But over the years, some confusion arose over whom the field was named for, say organizers such as Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans. She is a member of the Friends of Maj. Charles Kelly, a special committee that has joined forces with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7116 to host the ceremony.
A new, granite monument with Kelly's name on one side and an engraving of a helicopter on the other will be unveiled at the 50-yard line at 6:30 p.m., followed by a pregame rededication ceremony at 7 p.m. Evans asks that Vietnam veterans report to a sign-in table near the concession stand by 6 p.m. and invites those who can to wear their service uniform or veterans organization uniform or cap, to stand out for their special recognition.
"What we're really pushing for is to get all of the Vietnam veterans we can to come and, if they'll be there by 6 o'clock in front of the stadium, they'll be signed up and we want them to line the inside of the fence from goalpost to goalpost and they will be recognized in conjunction with the program," Evans said.
Other elements of the ceremony will include a rifle team, to fire a 21-round salute, and a color guard, both provided by Hunter Army Airfield, Evans said. Screven County High School Band Director Justin Burke and Drum Major Darius Williams, a senior, are slated to play an "echo" version of Taps. The band will play "God Bless America" and the national anthem.
Kelly's reputed last words were "When I have your wounded!" as soldiers on the ground urged him to fly away from the fighting. He is also credited as creator of the call sign DUSTOFF, which, given the meaning "Dedicated, Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces," became the motto of the 57th Medical Detachment.
The ceremony will conclude in time for the Gamecocks' 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the St. John's High School Islanders.
"Nobody will ever be able to forget for whom that stadium was named, after Saturday," Evans said.