Arts and Music

Untold Stories of Huntsville’s Veterans

Prentice Wayne Hicks. It’s the one name that stood out to David Carney as he was writing his book on veterans and POWs in North Alabama. All the stories shook David, but it was Prentice’s that hit him hard. Prentice was a 1968 graduate of Butler High School who joined the  Army after graduation, right in the middle of the Vietnam War. He was wounded in battle but chose to keep fighting.

Helicopters came to rescue him later on, but they had to retreat when the enemy attack became too strong. They came back the next day, but Prentice had crawled away from his stretcher. All they found was his Bible and a few personal items.

“He hasn’t been heard of since,” David said. “His parents died not knowing what happened to him.”

Stories like this are personal for David. He spent 23 years in the military as a public affairs liaison, escorting news teams on tours to show them: “This is who we are, and this is what we’re doing here,” David said.

But that was only part of his job. When he went on active duty during the Vietnam War, he was put in charge of the deployment ceremonies for troops going into combat and the returning ceremonies for the homecomings.

“I felt that they needed a big sendoff to give both them and their families that big, emotional burst of energy that they would need to sustain themselves, both the soldiers and their families,” David said. “It was very emotional.”

After David retired, he continued organizing the deployment ceremonies as a volunteer. The most recent one, held at Huntsville High School, brought almost 1,500 people together to send troops off to Afghanistan and surrounding areas. His retirement also gave David the opportunity to start writing books. He’s written and co-written five.

The Making of a Memorial

In 2003, David was tasked with locating and getting more information on the 366 names engraved on the wall at the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial. On the marble tablet containing the names of the soldiers who died in Vietnam, there are two listed as missing in action.

One is Prentice. The other is a sergeant whose family is heavily involved in veterans groups. David has talked to countless families of people who either died in combat or are still missing, and each time it’s an emotional experience.

David decided to use his writing skills to showcase more stories about the men and women from Madison County who died serving their country. It took more than a year, but David along with John Perry wrote, “The Making of a Memorial.”

“This book is all about people, people from here in Madison County,” David said. “It’s very emotional stories, the kind that really touches my and people’s heart. What is significant about this (is) it’s a pure charity thing. The proceeds from the book sales are going to fund the next statue—the wounded warriors statue.”

Supporting Local Veterans and Authors

David met Trish Gleason, one of the owners of University Pickers, at an air show in Meridianville. University Pickers is known for supporting local artists, but the chance to help a Huntsville author and veteran was too much to pass up.

“We talked—he had been in the store—and the more I talked to him, the more I fell in love with this sweet man,” Trish said.

While Trish credits her mother for giving her an appreciation for refinishing furniture, it was her father who gave her an appreciation for the military.

“My father is a veteran,” Trish said. “My father-in-law is a veteran. My son is going toward a military career, so it’s my past and my future.”

It’s a new venture for University Pickers. In the past they’ve focused on visual arts—furniture, decor and jewelry—but now they will have a dedicated space for Huntsville authors to sell their books.

“You can’t get any more local than the local veterans who have made sacrifices for us to be able to do our creations,” Trish said.

On October 14, David along with some other veteran authors, will be hosting a book signing at University Pickers. You will also be able to buy his book, “The Making of a Memorial,”  at the store.

After that, David is going to host a monthly talk where he discusses the history of the veterans memorial, Trish said.

For more information on the book signing, check out the University Pickers Facebook page.

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