Fla. town to name road after Army veteran killed in 1967 helicopter training crash in Vietnam
By MATT SOERGEL | The Florida Times-Union | Published: February 15, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Atlantic Beach on Saturday will memorialize the city's only veteran to be killed in the Vietnam War by putting his name on the road to the Intracoastal Waterway island where he and his childhood friends would hunt, fish, swim and go adventuring.
'Leroy Everett Day' honors the Atlantic Beach native who joined the Army right after graduating from Douglas Anderson High School, then the black high school for students east of the St. Johns River.
Everett, a football player and swimmer whose nickname was "Big Red," was voted "most handsome" in his class of 1960. His yearbook noted his post-high school goal: "Army Career. General."
On Dec. 19, 1967, he was a staff sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division in South Vietnam's Binh Duong Province. On a training run that day, he and nine other men were killed when their helicopter's engine failed. The craft exploded on impact.
Everett, who had just begun his second tour of Vietnam, had just turned 25.
During a dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, the city will unveil a road sign designating the road in Dutton Island as SFC Leroy Everett Memorial Parkway.
At 11 a.m., a reception at nearby Gail Baker Community Center will be a chance for reflections and stories about Everett, who had grown up in the black neighborhood west of Mayport Road, where several streets are named after the black families that settled them.
In a 2019 Times-Union story, some of Everett's old friends said his death reverberated widely through the close-knit community, where he had left his beloved Ford Mustang behind when he returned to Vietnam. He made his family promise to use it to get his mother Viola, who didn't drive, wherever she needed to get to.
The Dutton Island area, now a city preserve, was then known as Girvin Island, and Everett and his friends would practice for Douglas Anderson swim meets in the water around it.
The city of Atlantic Beach noted that other Atlantic Beach natives who died in military service have been honored with street and park namings. Everett is the first African-American to receive such an honor.
Everett's name is found on Panel 32E, Line 21 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
(c)2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Visit The Florida Times-Union at www.jacksonville.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.